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North Suburban News

Angel Fund Takes Wings in Wakefield to Fight ALS

Sep 06, 2018 08:48PM ● By Mary Leach

Richard Kennedy knows the heartbreak ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease can bring to a family. He founded the Angel Fund for ALS Research, a local charity based in Wakefield, to help find a viable treatment and, eventually, a cure for the devastating disease.

 “My personal motivation came from watching first my Dad (Christopher Kennedy) and then my youngest brother, Jimmy, succumb to ALS. Knowing with Jimmy’s diagnosis  that my family was carrying a genetic form of the disease, I made it my mission to do whatever possible to eradicate the disease,” Kennedy said.

 The Angel Fund was established in 1998, shortly after the first Jimmy Kennedy Memorial Run for ALS. 

“News coverage from this event caught the attention of a woman named Ginny DelVecchio, who was startled by the similar battles our families had faced. Ginny passed away from ALS shortly after this race, but my introduction to members of her family led quickly to formation of The Angel Fund,” Kennedy said.

 Kennedy’s study of ALS treatment led him to Dr.  Robert Brown, who at that time worked at Mass General Hospital and was recognized as a world leader in ALS research. 

“It was my intention (as well as that of the DelVecchio/Nigro family) to create a vehicle to fund Dr. Brown’s research, taking no salaries for ourselves and keeping overhead and expenses to a minimum.”

Each year, the Angel Fund hosts multiple events, ranging from walks and road races, to golf tournaments, raffles, casino and comedy nights. So far they have raised over $12 million and counting, Kennedy said, giving Dr. Brown $1 million last year.

But new treatments and a cure cannot come fast enough from those with ALS. 

“Over the course of 21 years, our work has attracted what I lovingly refer to as The Angel Fund Family,” Kennedy said. “This ever-growing family shares dozens upon dozens of heartbreaking stories, but is united by our single goal. Together we are gratified by how much has already been done and optimistic about where we are headed.”

A little over two years ago Kennedy, a physical therapist based in Braintree who has treated dozens of ALS patients free of charge, was himself diagnosed with ALS.

“For 21 years I have been president and head cheerleader for the organization and for Dr.  Brown," Kennedy said. "As an ALS patient I remain extremely optimistic about the future. Success for the organization means nothing less than a cure. Success for me personally will mean crossing the finish line of the Boston Marathon, for the 32nd time.”

The 17th annual Walk of Hope for ALS, a 3.5-mile walk around Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield to benefit The Angel Fund for ALS Research, will be held on Saturday, Sept. 8. To learn more about that event and others, visit



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