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O.J. Brigance Brigade Raises Awareness For ALS At Annual Fiesta 5K

BALTIMORE (WJZ)—It started seven years ago, and it’s become the largest ALS event in the Baltimore area. The fight against Lou Gehrig’s disease is being led by former Raven O.J. Brigance, who was diagnosed with the disease six years ago.

Ron Matz has more on the Brigance Brigade and the power of inspiration.

O.J. Brigance is a profile in courage. The former Raven was diagnosed with ALS six years ago. He and his wife Chanda formed the Brigance Brigade Foundation.

“They really have put themselves out there for the world to see that you can live with this disease,” said Christine Kirkley, executive director of the Brigance Brigade Foundation. “Just because you have this diagnosis it doesn’t define you, so he’s out there showing people, being an inspiration to people who are living with this disease.”

Saturday’s Fiesta 5K raises money for ALS research.

“Saturday is the big day. O.J. has been involved for the last five years. He and his wife Chanda are the honorary chairs. His friends and family from Houston are going to be there. We have all the teams. It’s not only a big day for O.J., it’s a big day for the ALS community in general,” Kirkley said.

It’s the power of inspiration.

“When you’re diagnosed with this disease you feel like you’re the only one going through it, so when you have an event like this and you have thousands of people together and you can see there’s a community supporting you, it really means the world to you,” Kirkley said.

Alex Nelson’s husband was just 37 when he was diagnosed.

“We actually got involved with the Fiesta 5K three years ago when my husband at the age of 37 was diagnosed with ALS. We just decided to set a small team up to raise money for ALS research,” Nelson said. “The day of the race this year my husband will turn 40. We just need to find a cure and some more treatment.”

Team Nelly will be there.

“It’s Team Nelly. We raised about $24,000 the first year, $36,000 last year and $43,000 this year. We have about 150 people on our team,” Nelson said.

The Bouchelles lost their dad and husband to ALS.

“We got involved in 2008 after my dad was diagnosed,” said Zoey Bouchelle, of Fells Point. “We formed a team to run in honor of him and also to raise money for the Packard Center and research.”

Saturday’s Fiesta 5K begins at Power Plant Live! More than 2,300 people have already signed up.

“My husband passed away in 2009. This is our sixth year running. If there’s anything that we can do to keep another family or another person from suffering through this then it would be a wonderful thing,” said Bouchelle.

The money raised Saturday will to the Robert Packard Center for ALS research at Johns Hopkins. For more information, click here.

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