Being diagnosed with ALS can be devastating. But one Gastonia family is finding hope – and even inspiring others to help – as they face this great challenge together.

Marty D’Amore, a longtime sports and exercise enthusiast and a physician, sensed there was something wrong after a long period of unusual symptoms. After several months of medical evaluations, Marty was diagnosed in 2010 with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. This progressive, degenerative neurological disorder eventually robs patients of their ability to move, speak, swallow and breathe. There is no known cure.

Despite this difficult news, Marty, his wife Kirsten and their three school-aged children remain positive and hopeful as they look to the future. And they’re helping spread awareness of the disease, while moving members of the community to support research and better treatments close to home.

Marty continues to live each day to the fullest – and he’s determined to be the best father, husband, brother, and friend that he’s always been.

As he told a local newspaper: “I understand what’s going on, and I know what the prognosis is. I’m just enjoying every day. I’m focusing on what I can do. I’m still spending wonderful time with my family.”

Marty says he draws strength from others he’s met at Carolinas Neuromuscular/ALS Center: “The ALS team and the clinic have been outstanding. I feel grateful to have this clinic so close to home with an incredible support staff that can help through the changing facets of life. … This disease really helps you focus in on what’s most important in life – your family and your relationships.”

In June 2010, Carolinas HealthCare Foundation created Marty’s Fund. The fund supports ALS treatment and research at the Carolinas Neuromuscular/ALS Center at Carolinas Medical Center. It has already inspired gifts totaling more than $70,000 for ALS research.

Since then, the community has rallied to support Marty and his dedication to creating awareness and raising funds for ALS research. Gaston Day School, where the D’Amore children are students, organized a special ALS Walk to support the effort, raising more than $6,000.

When Bill Hunter (also a physician) and his wife, Karen, learned of their close friend’s diagnosis, they were compelled to help. In keeping with Marty’s fun-loving spirit, they teamed up with Kirsten and helped coordinate a fundraiser around the Chicago Marathon. Marty inspired his family, friends and work colleagues to make pledges for the team that would run in his honor.

On October 10, 2010, Kirsten, Karen and Bill – cheered on by Marty and other family and friends – crossed the finish line in Chicago. The three runners completed the marathon with the satisfaction of knowing that they were truly making a difference in the fight against ALS.