ELMHURST – Next weekend, volunteers adorned in yellow aprons will collect donations throughout Elmhurst in an attempt to “tag out” amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Bensenville resident Ninfa Queyquep is leading the first-ever Elmhurst Tag Day after losing her husband, Eric, at age 46 to ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in December 2012. Now Queyquep is on a mission to help others going through what her family did.
“The faster we get rid of ALS, the better,” she said.
Liz Melvin with the Les Turner ALS Foundation said that at any given time, about 35,000 people are living with ALS. Queyquep knows many don’t know anything about the incurable disease.
“Awareness is very important to me,” said Queyquep, who admits she had no idea what ALS was when her husband was diagnosed in 2009.
ALS is a motor neuron disease that results in loss of muscle functions such as speaking, swallowing and eventually breathing.
Queyquep said Eric always remained positive and participated as best he could in his children’s activities during the three years he suffered with ALS. The Les Turner ALS Foundation offered her, Eric and their two sons advice and resources throughout his illness.
“We provide services for 600 families at any one time,” Melvin said. The Les Turner ALS Foundation provides respite grants and support group meetings and has a research partnership with the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
The foundation organized its first official Tag Days event in 1994 and has raised about $1.5 million through Tag Days events since. This year, there will be nearly 30 community-organized Tag Days throughout May, which is National ALS Awareness Month.
This year, the group hopes to raise $80,000 with the help of 700 volunteers throughout the Chicago area.
Volunteers usually offer two hours of service. Children are welcome to help. Anyone interested in volunteering can visit lesturnerals.org or call 847-679-3311.
“This is something that is really close to me,” Queyquep said. “The Les Turner Foundation was very supportive from day one when [Eric] was diagnosed.”