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Murkowski Throws Herself Into ALS Relief Efforts

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski isn’t much for all the game playing that goes on in the Senate.  

But if flinging a bean-filled, felt square into a hole several yards away helps the Alaska Republican stamp out Lou Gehrig’s disease once and for all, so be it.  

“My family has been living and dying with ALS for eight years,” she shared. Her cousin Jenny Gore Dwyer’s husband, Pat Dwyer, succumbed to the debilitating illness in June 2013. That’s why she and Gore will be heading to Penn Social on Saturday to partake in the “Washington DC Corntoss Challenge ,” an annual fundraiser benefiting the ALS Therapy Development Institute in Cambridge, Mass.  

“I’d like to think that one of these days we’re gonna make a little progress,” Murkowski said of the work she’s put in to informing others about Lou Gehrig’s disease. She credits Gore with helping to educate her about the all-consuming malady.  

“I learned that even though we have identified the disease and named it, we haven’t come any closer to any cure in the many decades since Lou Gehrig,” Murkowski said.  

She estimated that inaction has been abetted by the psychologically draining outcome that comes with every diagnosis. “There are no survivors of ALS,” she warned, citing the absence of success stories that have elevated contemporary causes such as breast cancer awareness. “The caregivers are often so exhausted … it’s hard for them to be the daily advocates after their loved one has passed.”  

The appropriator said she continues to fight to add more resources for ALS research to military budgets, and that she confers regularly with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki — “Every time I see Secretary Shinseki, it’s an issue we discuss,” she said — about sparing combat veterans from its ill effects.  

She also touches base about it with physician and fellow anti-ALS crusader Sen. Tom Coburn. The Oklahoma Republican’s longstanding chief of staff, Michael Schwartz , lost his battle with the disease in early 2013.  

As for Saturday, Murkowski is focused on improving at least one little thing.  

“I have not set a fundraising goal. But I am hoping to improve on my cornhole performance from last year,” she shared.  

(Courtesy Young Faces of ALS)
(Courtesy Young Faces of ALS)

“It was absolutely pathetic.”