Fighting ALS: Fashion show with wine, food benefits battle against Lou Gehrig’s disease

Celebrating wine and fashion in the name of ALS is at the center of The Hearts On Your Sleeve Jeff Highlander Memorial Fashion Show.

The benefit for the ALS Association New Mexico Chapter is bigger than its debut last year, which featured one boutique. This year, Silk Road Connection, Articles for Her, and Retail Therapy ABQ will participate, with 18 models showcasing their items during a tearoom-style fashion show. All the models will carry cards with their names as well as the boutiques they are representing so patrons can later purchase the clothing and accessories from the stores. Guests can also enjoy wine, an auction and raffles.

“We are having food and wine pairings, so throughout (Casa Esencia), there’ll be different wine stations and then you can pair them with the hors d’oeuvres that we have,” said Katie Crouch, special events coordinator for the ALS Association New Mexico Chapter. “There’s a range of different wines that people can choose from. We also have a silent auction that we are doing, and then we also have a ton of really awesome raffle items. We have NFL tickets, MLB tickets, we’ve got spa days, we’ve got designer purses, we’ve got a whole bunch of stuff, so a ton of really great raffle items. Tito’s Handmade Vodka is one of our title sponsors, and they are whipping up three separate specialty cocktails just for the event.”

The event was created to raise money for the ALS Association New Mexico Chapter, which tackles the disease on all fronts.

“We deal with advocacy, research, care services and public policy, and basically on a local level what we do is try to provide as many resources for people living with ALS that we possibly can,” Crouch said. “We have a loan closet where we can loan out power wheelchairs, which are usually anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000. … We also have durable medical equipment that people need to just live their everyday lives, and then we enter care grants for people having a hard time financially. Each patient is allowed to apply for a care grant each year, and it’s $1,000, and they can use it toward anything that they need.”

ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is an expensive illness, costing each patient $250,000 a year, according to Crouch. The disease also takes a huge physical toll on patients.

“There’s a protein that’s in your spinal cord, and it just breaks down all of your muscles to the point where they just stop working,” Crouch said. “… That takes effect on every extremity on your body. … It’s different for every person, and their life expectancy is two to five years. That’s the average.”

Recently, the ALS Association New Mexico Chapter worked with the Texas chapter to open a clinic in El Paso. Southern New Mexico residents can now visit the closer clinic instead of making the four-hour drive to Albuquerque. The University of New Mexico Hospital’s neurology department offers a clinic for ALS patients in and around Albuquerque.

“(They) go in every three months and see up to 10 medical professionals, ranging from neurologists to nutritionists to physical therapy to social work,” Crouch said. “(They) see all of these people in one day, which is really nice, because people who have ALS get tired very easily, as you can imagine, so they can just bust all of their appointments out in one day, which is awesome.”

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