By: Jocelyn Maminta, WTNH Health Reporter
CROMWELL, Conn. (WTNH)–The Travelers Championship has raised millions for hometown charities in the state. This year though there’s a personal link between the Travelers family and this great tournament.
The golf pros have yet to arrive at TPC River Highlands. The first shot of the tournament was an emotional one at opening ceremonies.
“It’s a little clunky but I just want to thank the good lord for getting me here today. Honest to God, when we planned this, my first thought was, will I still be around?” said honorary co-chair Jay Fishman.
Jay has ALS –Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He relies on a ventilator to help him breathe easier. He is also Executive Chairman of the Board of Travelers.
This time last year, he was walking.
Jay says, “I’m determined to let people know that at least for this week, this group of people, they are not forgotten.”
His co-chair is Brian Savo of East Haven, diagnosed with ALS in 2009.
“The quicker you come to grips,” Brian stressed, “you can’t change the disease. It is what it is. You can make good out of it.”
For the first time the spotlight is on the ALS cause — with Hospital for Special Care as the primary beneficiary of the list of 100 charities benefiting from Travelers.
It is the only facility in the state — accredited for A-L-S care.
Dr. Kevin Felice says, “It allows us to expand some of our clinical activities and some of our clinical trials programs so we are really excited but the biggest thing it does is it raises awareness for ALS.”
He specializes in the debilitating and degenerative disease of which there is no cure.
“Only about 10 percent of cases of ALS are genetically based so the vast majority of ALS cases we do not understand the cause,” says Dr. Felice.
Many attending work a red ribbon with the message carry on — though both men encourage patients to lean in when diagnosed.
Jay says, “My perspective was always to start using gear, equipment, that would keep me safe and keep me going sooner than it was necessary to do so.”
“Believe in yourself and the people who surround you,” says Brian. “So the thrill of victory comes from belief- not hope so I believe and I hope that we will get to the bottom of this disease.”
Friday night, pro golfer Tom Watson will host a dinner with all the proceeds going directly to ALS research.