Les Turner ALS Foundation
Providing hope and help for people with ALS for nearly 40 years
In 1976, Harvey Gaffen’s brother-in-law and best friend, Les Turner, was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 36. Les was a businessman in the Chicago area and married with three young boys. At a time when information and research on ALS was relatively nonexistent, Harvey, Les and his wife, Ina, along with friends and family decided to start a Foundation that would raise funds to provide vital research and resources to ALS patients and families. In 1977, a year before Les’ death the Les Turner ALS Foundation was officially launched and soon became one of the nation’s first and largest independent ALS organizations. This extraordinary group of founders dedicated their time to ensuring future ALS patients and families would have the resources, support and hope for a cure that was unavailable to Les and his family.
One of the Foundation’s first and most successful fundraising events, the Mammoth Music & Record Mart, was Les’ idea and opened in September 1978. Harvey served as the Chairman of the Mammoth Music Mart for its first two years. For 25 years the Mammoth Music & Record Mart attracted thousands of music lovers from across the country seeking additions to their music collections thanks to nationwide donations that included LPs, 45s, cassettes, CDs, sheet music and musical instruments.
Harvey Gaffen and his wife, Bonny, formed the Board of Directors of the Foundation with Harvey taking on the role of President in 1979. One of Harvey’s first moves as the Foundation President was to hire a new Executive Director after Bob Joseph, a friend of Les who previously held the role, moved to California. To lead the day to day operations for the Foundation, Harvey turned to Wendy Abrams, who had been a dedicated volunteer at the Mammoth Music & Record Mart. She was hired in 1979 and held the role as Executive Director for an incredible 36 years, retiring in 2015.
Under the leadership of Wendy and Harvey, the Foundation’s most meaningful accomplishments included the establishment of the nation’s first ALS research laboratory at Northwestern Medicine in 1979, the creation of support programs to help people with ALS (PALS) and their families, and in 1986 the establishment of the Lois Insolia ALS Clinic, a multidisciplinary patient center at Northwestern Medicine. In 1992, the Les Turner ALS Foundation became a founding member of the International Alliance of ALS/MND Associations, with Wendy taking on a leadership role.
Many founders are still involved in the Foundation today with Harvey serving as President Emeritus and as a member of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee. Bonny also serves on the Board of Directors and volunteers at a variety of Foundation events. Wendy continues to volunteer at events and serves in an advisory role with the Foundation.
Thanks in large part to the vision and perseverance of its founders, the Les Turner ALS Foundation has been Chicagoland’s leader in ALS research, patient care and education for nearly 40 years. The Foundation continues to support world class ALS research, while providing hope and help for people living with ALS and their families.
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Founders of the Les Turner ALS Foundation:
Ina Turner Jones