A display of 6,000 pinwheels on Stony Brook University’s West Campus will serve as a powerful reminder of the number of people diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, per year.
The pinwheels — which represent 6,000 annual diagnoses, or approximately one every 90 minutes — will be placed by volunteers on Saturday, May 13, on the grass located just outside Lot 40 (formerly the South P Lot) on South Drive. They will remain in place until the week of May 23.
Volunteers are welcomed to assist with placement of the pinwheels beginning at 9:30 am.
The pinwheel display is organized by the ALS Ride for Life organization in recognition of ALS Awareness month. Christopher Pendergast founded the ALS Ride for Life in 1997 and raised more than $10 million for ALS research before he died in 2020 at age 71 after battling ALS for 28 years. The ALS Center at Stony Brook Medicine was renamed the Stony Brook Neuromuscular Disease and Christopher Pendergast ALS Center of Excellence in his honor.
Pendergast was told he had three years to live when first diagnosed with ALS, and he wanted to make any remaining years count. He disdained the term “survivor,” because he knew he would not survive, but he spent his years raising awareness and funds for ALS.
Although a quadriplegic, on a ventilator, and using an eye-gaze computer to communicate in his final years, Pendergast remained active with the Ride. The pinwheel display serves as a reminder to continue the work begun by Pendergast and to honor his legacy.
“Christopher Pendergast was a remarkable man who dedicated his life to helping others with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) while fighting the debilitating disease himself,” said Nurcan Gursoy, associate professor of neurology in the Department of Neurology in the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University and physician on the Stony Brook Neuromuscular Disease and Christopher Pendergast ALS Center of Excellence Team. “As a founder of the ALS Ride for Life organization, he worked so hard to raise funds to support patients, families and research. Chris Pendergast was very supportive of the ALS multidisciplinary clinic here at Stony Brook since its opening in 2002 which eventually was named after him. He was an inspiration to so many people. We are lucky to have known him and very grateful for his support to our ALS clinic.”
Dick Iannuzzi, a volunteer and vice chairperson at the Ride for Life, said, “Awareness and research are key to finding a cure for ALS. This tragic disease, which has no cure, strikes approximately 6,000 people in this country each year. The significance of the 6,000 pinwheels to increase awareness, and placing them here at Stony Brook University where there is ongoing critical research toward finding a cure is most fitting.”