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.
“Being brothers-in-law was secondary to being best friends. We were extremely close. We vacationed together. We drove downtown every day together. We played tennis together. We lived within a few blocks of each other,” shares Harvey.
In fact, it was a vacation in Florida together that first showed signs of Les’ eventual diagnosis. “Les and I were playing tennis and he fell down chasing a ball. He was concerned about weakness in his left leg. Not long after, he was admitted into Evanston Hospital for observation. He was in there for a week when I got a call from Ina, Les’ wife, to be at the hospital at 6pm that night, when the doctor was going to tell him he had Lou Gehrig’s disease.”
At that time, information and research on ALS was relatively nonexistent. “That was the impetus for starting the Foundation. It was out of love for Les. We wanted to start a foundation to support the first research lab in the country devoted solely to ALS research.”
In 1977, Harvey, his wife Bonny, Les and Ina, along with friends and family, officially launched the Les Turner ALS Foundation and began raising funds for ALS research. In 1979, we established that research lab and awarded the first grant to Northwestern Medicine. “Northwestern has always made our cause, their cause. That speaks to the strength and longevity of our relationship.”
Harvey has devoted over half his life to fighting ALS and we want to thank him as he celebrates his birthday on July 25!
“I couldn’t be prouder of the fact that we were able to enshrine Les Turner’s name in perpetuity and make a meaningful difference in the lives of people living with ALS and families throughout the world. There’s no way we could fathom the Foundation of today.”
Many of our founders, including Harvey and Bonny, are still actively involved in the Foundation today. Harvey serves as Chair Emeritus, Treasurer and is an engaged member of our Board of Directors. In fact, you’ve probably spotted Harvey at one of our signature events like the ALS Walk for Life or our Hope Through Caring Gala.
Thanks in large part to the vision and perseverance of founders like Harvey, the Les Turner ALS Foundation has been Chicagoland’s leader in ALS research, patient care and education for over 40 years.
“I believe a world free of ALS is in our future. We’re getting there, however, we realize it’s a process. There’s so much great research going on at our Les Turner ALS Center at Northwestern Medicine and throughout the world. There’s no doubt it’s going to happen. It’s only a matter of dollars and time.”
Thank you, Harvey, for all you’ve done to help people living with ALS. Happy Birthday from your Les Turner ALS family!
Your support is vital to ensuring every person living with ALS in the Chicagoland area can receive the help they need. If you would like to make a donation, please click here.