Every 90 minutes, someone is diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
To fight for a cure for ALS, Team Godfather Charitable Foundation is hosting the fourth annual Bike 4 Mike Oct. 25 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The event is also held in memory of Michael Ramirez, a Carlsbad man who fought the disease.
Known to many as “the godfather,” Ramirez died in April 2012 at the age of 56 from ALS.
“Mike loved cycling,” said Greg Sacks, chairman of Team Godfather Charitable Foundation. “He would have loved every one of these events. He would have had more fun than anybody there.”
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes muscle weakness, paralysis, and ultimately, respiratory failure. It attacks the nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord responsible for controlling voluntary muscles.
There is no cure.
According to the ALS Association, about 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year. It is estimated that as many as 30,000 Americans may be living with ALS at any given time, approximately 300 in San Diego County alone.
Ramirez was diagnosed with ALS in September of 2009.
A graduate of Helix High School and later the University of San Diego, Ramirez was a commercial banker in local and national markets for 35 years. He served on multiple foundation and nonprofit boards, including Mercy Hospital Foundation.
Ramirez was also very active, having played baseball, basketball and football in high school and football in college. After college, he completed long-distance cycling races, marathons and triathlons. He was an avid golfer and practiced karate and yoga.
“Mike was a wonderful guy,” said Sacks, a longtime friend of Ramirez. “He was like everybody who’s diagnosed with ALS. They are just larger-than-life people.”
Not long after being diagnosed, Ramirez directed his energy toward raising awareness and funds to fight the disease. In May 2010, he and his wife, Maureen, along with friends, founded Team Godfather Charitable Foundation.
The Carlsbad-based foundation raises money for medical research and supports the ALS Therapy Development Institute, the world’s first and largest nonprofit biotech focused 100 percent on ALS research. Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the institute has tested more potential treatments for ALS than any other research lab, thanks to support from fundraisers like Bike 4 Mike.
“We really rely on our network of ALS friends and families that, like Team Godfather, support our efforts so that we can spend the most money possible toward research,” said Gretchen Simoneaux, a board member of the foundation and employee of the institute.
Bike 4 Mike offers 10-, 25- and 50-mile coastal rides, and beginning this year, a new Century Metric Course of 100 kilometers or 62.137 miles, starting and ending at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The event will also host spin classes and a post-ride Mexican fiesta, complete with vendor booths, music and refreshments.
More than 380 cyclists participated in Bike 4 Mike last year, which raised about $60,000. Event organizers expect 500 participants this year and hope to raise even more.
“Every event we put on is an absolute party,” said Kevin McCauley, a board member who came up with the idea for Bike 4 Mike. “We raise funds and we raise awareness, but we have fun doing it.”
Gates open at 6 a.m. for late registrations, check-in and breakfast. To register, visit www.bike4mike.org.
For more about Team Godfather Charitable Foundation, visit www.teamgodfather.org.