The ALS Association has released a series of public service announcements (PSAs) highlighting what life is like with ALS. Throughout May, which is ALS Awareness Month, the Association will promote and distribute three separate PSAs showing “The Reality of ALS.”
“Many people have heard of ALS, but they may not know much about the disease,” said Brian Frederick, executive vice president of communications of The ALS Association. “Our goal with this PSA campaign is to show what it’s like to live with ALS and the devastating impact the disease has on families. The pieces reflect the grace, beauty, and dignity that so many people with ALS possess, while also acknowledging the harsh truth that this disease is cruel and fatal.”
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Eventually, people with ALS lose the ability to initiate and control muscle movement, which often leads to total paralysis and death within five years of diagnosis. For unknown reasons, veterans are twice as likely to develop ALS as the general population. There is no cure.
“The best part about filming this commercial was that everything about it was real,” said Jason Walker, an Ohio man living with ALS, who is featured in the Association’s “Good Night” PSA. “There was very little stress because we weren’t trying to act for a particular role. It truly was a film crew filming part of our everyday routine, which makes it really special.”
The PSAs were shot by Boston ad agency MMB, on location in Connecticut, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and feature real people living with ALS and their families.
“This project was incredibly important to us. ALS is such a terrible disease and we haven’t seen that reality conveyed often enough,” said Travis Robertson, executive creative director for MMB. “Aside from the obvious physical implications, there are emotional implications to ALS that trickle down through the entire family. These spots seek to capture that in a way that is both cinematic and brutally self-aware.”
PSA #1: “A Few Words”
David McClain, a husband, father, and grandfather who was diagnosed with ALS in 2003, spent 25 years working in sales for a local steel manufacturer before the disease robbed him of his career. He got engaged to his wife 33 years ago, two weeks after they met. A former high school athlete and second-degree blackbelt in Tae Kwon Do, he enjoyed camping, hunting, and fishing before the disease robbed him of the ability to perform physical activities.
PSA #2: “Little Things”
Donna Boring is a mother of three who was diagnosed with ALS in 2008. She has been an ALS advocate for years. Her Walk to Defeat ALS team, Donna’s Diva’s, will be competing in their sixth walk to raise awareness and funding this year, and she plans to attend The ALS Association’s National ALS Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C., later this month. She works with her local The ALS Association chapter to help spread awareness of the disease and says, “If I have to be the face of ALS, it’s not a bad face to have.”
PSA #3: “Good Night”
Jason Walker was diagnosed with ALS 14 years ago. He started dating his wife three years after his diagnosis, and they have been married for 4 years. Their daughter, Eloise, was born 17 months ago. He has used a tracheotomy and feeding tube since just after his wedding. He says the experience of appearing in a PSA to raise awareness of the disease was outstanding.