BRIELLE — A charitable organization with a competitive streak raised over $6,000 for ALS [amyotrophic lateral sclerosis], also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, research on Sunday afternoon, as hundreds of borough residents gathered at Brielle Park to watch the Moms of Brielle [MOB] play flag football and support a family affected by the disease.
Ellen and Dennis Lafferty moved to Brielle with their four children this year. The Laffertys have summered in the area for 12 years and decided to make the Jersey Shore their home following Mr. Lafferty’s ALS diagnosis in October 2017.
“We moved to quaint little Brielle full-time in January,” Ms. Lafferty said. “And, instantly, everyone was just so wonderful and kind to us.
“We didn’t really tell everyone immediately [about Mr. Lafferty’s diagnosis],” she continued. “But the more people got to know us, they know my husband has ALS.”
The Moms of Brielle chose to aid their new neighbors after co-founder May Petracco, a friend of the Lafferty family, met them on Halloween night and determined to change the fundraiser’s mission. In previous years, proceeds from the game have gone to breast cancer awareness and research.
The last-minute decision paid off: The Moms of Brielle fundraiser raised $6,735 — a figure far surpassing the event’s average yearly donation total of $500. According to Ms. Petracco, this year’s sum total may even double, as an unnamed company will likely match it with a contribution of its own.
FUNDRAISING THROUGH FOOTBALL
Ms. Petracco and Jessica Tice founded their Moms of Brielle team three years ago, following the Brielle Recreation Department’s 2017 North versus South competition, an annual sports challenge fundraiser for residents in need that promotes a friendly cross-town rivalry.
“May and I were the team captains for North versus South,” Ms. Tice said, “and we just wanted to continue the fun and raise some money. It’s just one of those things we kinda do — we get together and compete, and we all love it.”
The informal group meets for one game of flag football per year, and asks its competitors to donate $20 each to play.
“We usually get about 25 players,” Ms. Petracco said. “Well, this year we got more, even more so because people just wanted to come [watch the game] and support.”
A local family donated a grill and food to the Nov. 3 event, and attendees on the sidelines made donations in exchange for hamburgers and hotdogs as the Moms of Brielle game progressed.
“Just knowing that there’s a member of the Brielle community that needs this research to be done, I feel it really rallies a group of people,” Ms. Tice said. “Because everybody, we just want to help each other.”
TACKLING ALS RESEARCH
The Laffertys chose Tackle ALS, a fundraising effort at Massachusetts General Hospital, to receive the funds raised by the Moms of Brielle.
“This goes directly to research,” Ms. Lafferty said.
The MOB donation will go to the Healey Center for ALS, run by the hospital’s head neurologist Dr. Merit Cudkowicz, who is heading the first platform trial for ALS in the world, which began early this year. Platform trials evaluate multiple drugs simultaneously, cutting trial times in half and costs by a third, according to Ms. Lafferty.
“We know [Dr. Cudkowicz], we’re patients of hers, we have a nice relationship with her,” she continued. “So, we just see the hope in that they may actually find a cure through this.”
According to Dr. Cudkowicz, platform trials are old news in cancer research, but the practice has only recently made traction in the world of neurology sciences. Her own endeavor is made possible through the philanthropy of others. More money allows more drugs to be tested, which ultimately increases access to treatment for ALS, for which no cure exists. The Laffertys “are an amazing family, and their friends are amazing,” Dr. Cudkowicz said.
The money raised by the Moms of Brielle “is enormously helpful to try to get this off the ground.”
A CARING COMMUNITY
Despite having lived in Brielle for less than a year, the Laffertys have been embraced by their new neighbors.
“Money or no money, the support has been unbelievable … We’ve had it since day one,” Ms. Lafferty said, “Without people feeling sorry for us, and that’s a hard balance, right? People are just like, ‘You’re part of this community, we’ll help you.’ That’s it. No questions.”
The appreciation goes both ways.
“She’s a wonderful woman,” Ms. Petracco said. “They’re handling this with such dignity and class. That’s why so many people have come out, they’re just fantastic people.”
Reflecting, Ms. Lafferty said, “The good in humanity comes out in bad situations, sometimes.”
Donations to ALS research can be made on the Lafferty family’s Tackle ALS page at www.tackleals.com/team/change-als.
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