Les Turner ALS Foundation

History, Mission & Vision

Our Mission

To provide the most comprehensive care and support to people living with ALS and their families so they can confidently navigate the disease, and advance scientific research for the prevention, treatment and cure of ALS.

Our Vision

A world free of ALS.


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 almost 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 passed away, the Les Turner ALS Foundation was officially launched. It soon became one of the nation’s largest independent ALS organizations. This extraordinary group of founders dedicated their time to ensuring people living with ALS and their 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. 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 was to hire a new Executive Director to follow Bob Joseph, a friend of Les who previously held the role. 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 held the role of 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 living with ALS 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.

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.

Thanks in large part to the vision and perseverance of its founders, the Les Turner ALS Foundation is Chicagoland’s leader in ALS research, care and education. The Foundation continues to support world class ALS research, while providing hope and help for people living with ALS and their families.

Les Turner

Founders of the Les Turner ALS Foundation

Armand Bendersky, Razzie Bendersky, Norman Friedman, Roberta Friedman, Bonny Gaffen, Harvey Gaffen, Ina Turner Jones, Harvey Klene, Marshall Krolick, Roberta Krolick, Maxine Levy, Steve Levy, Beverly Loder, Bettie Nowell, Jill Schechter, Herb Singer, Zena Singer and Ben Turner

Opening of the Les Turner ALS Research Laboratory

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1977 Les Turner ALS Foundation Started
Les Turner ALS Foundation is founded by Les Turner and a small group of his friends and family in the Turner’s living room. Today, the Foundation is recognized as one of the nation’s oldest, independent ALS organizations.

1979 The Les Turner ALS Research Laboratory
First Les Turner ALS Research Laboratory opens, providing hope for a future without ALS to people nationwide. Today, the Foundation funds three dedicated ALS laboratories at Northwestern Medicine.

1986 The Lois Insolia ALS Clinic at the Les Turner ALS Research and Patient Center at Northwestern Medicine
The Lois Insolia ALS Clinic opens at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, one of the first in the nation and the only in Chicago. Today, the Clinic is recognized as one of the nation’s best multidisciplinary centers for people living with ALS.

2014  Les Turner ALS Research and Patient Center at Northwestern Medicine
Les Turner ALS Center at Northwestern Medicine forms, enhancing collaboration between the three ALS research laboratories and the Lois Insolia ALS Clinic. Today, the Center is one of the premier ALS Centers in the country. 

2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge sweeps the nation, increasing public perception of ALS and raising hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide. Today, increased public support is leading to greater advancements in ALS care and research.

Care. Community. Cure.

We provide individualized care, local community support and hope through
scientific research.