Christopher Pendergast, the Ride for Life founder who has battled amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) for 18 years, and was the major force behind the 2002 opening of a comprehensive ALS clinic at Stony Brook University Medical Center (renamed the Christopher Pendergast ALS Center of Excellence in 2010) received the Jacob K. Javits Lifetime Achievement Award from the ALS Association Greater New York Chapter. Baseball great David Cone presented the award to Pendergast on November 8 at the 17th Annual Lou Gehrig Sports Awards Benefit at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan.
According to the ALS Association Greater New York Chapter, the Jacob K. Javits Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to one who exemplifies a lifetime of advocacy in the fight against ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Whether fighting for a treatment or cure, caring for those battling ALS, or bringing awareness to this fatal disease, honorees represent the tenacious, passionate, and caring qualities of its namesake.
David Cone, Honorary Chair of the Ride for Life Foundation and a friend of the Pendergast family, was among several sports stars and personalities at the benefit. Many of the other honorees commented on the importance of supporting the battle against ALS and referenced Pendergast’s inspiring journey with the disease, as shown on this MLB.com video.
“Chris Pendergast has not only fought like a soldier, he has raised awareness about ALS and millions of dollars for the cause,” said Cone. “He is an iron man in his own right, just like Lou Gehrig.”
Pendergast joins a select group of individuals who have won the award. Some past honorees include Robert Downey Sr.; Dick Schaap, a sports journalist; Jon Stone, the original producer of Sesame Street; Michael Goldstein, Chair of Toys “R” Us; and Richard Dreiling, Chair of Duane Reade.
During the awards ceremony, a brief film was shown documenting Pendergast’s life and advocacy, including his work as the founder of the Ride for Life and Ride for Life Foundation and his role in bringing to fruition Stony Brook’s Christopher Pendergast ALS Center of Excellence, an ALS Association Certified Center. The Center is the only ALS Association certified center on Long Island and one of 34 programs nationwide.
Actor Donald Sutherland narrated the film by speaking Pendergast’s own words. Complications from ALS make speaking difficult for Pendergast. The award is named after and honors former US Senator from New York Jacob K. Javits, an advocate of Stony Brook in its early years who died of ALS.
Event honorees receiving the Lou Gehrig Sports Award included: former President of HBO Sports Ross Greenberg; National Basketball Association Hall of Fame member Bob Hurley Sr.; former NY Ranger and US Hockey Hall of Fame member Mike Richter; former New York Yankees Manager and current Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations for MLB Joe Torre; and New York Mets third baseman David Wright.
TV sports announcers Jeremy Schaap (master of ceremonies) and Bob Costas (presenter) also took part in the program.