Alderman plans to take on the Atlantic in ALS fundraiser


By Louise R. SHAW lshaw@davisclipper.com

SALT LAKE CITY—It’s an undertaking that would challenge any able-bodied person. Even with a six-man team, rowing 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean is daunting. But for Alan Alderman, the challenge is especially difficult. “Based on all averages, I should have been dead 12 years ago,” said Alderman, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2001. “So I have been really fortunate and really blessed.” Though walking can be difficult and talking can be labored, Alderman has determined to join a team that will row across the Atlantic in the Talisker Whisky Challenge next December. “It’s important to me for many reasons,” said Alderman, who lives independently in Salt Lake City. “I want to show that with help and support people with disabilities of every kind can make a difference. I want to show my fellow ALS patients that they can make a difference.” It was 17 years ago, after months of tests, that the father of three was told he had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. A Logan native and graduate of Utah State University, Alderman had lived and worked in California from 1985 to 2000. He was diagnosed a year after his return to Utah. When diagnosed with ALS, he was told that most with the disease live two to five years. “I determined that I had to do something,” he writes on the website row4als.org. “I wasn’t just going to lay down and die! ALS might take my life, but it would not take it without a fight!” In the years since, Alderman has found he has a slow progressing form of the disease. It has allowed him to serve three service missions for the LDS church and do “a bit of fundraising.” One purpose of the race, in fact, is to raise funds to help with awareness and research on ALS. It was a friend, Tim Ryan, who called Alderman about the rowing challenge, asking him to help with fundraising. “I thought that it would be a great fundraising event and (I told him) that I would help him under one condition … that I was in the boat with him rowing across the Atlantic too,” he said. Ryan and Alderman will be joined by Teddy Waldo, Dale Smith, Mike Goldstein and Steve Sawaya. The plan is to row for three-hour shifts in the day, longer shifts at night, 24/7 until they arrive. The fastest groups could make it in 29 days, said Alderman. His team hopes to get from the start in the Canary Islands to the finish at Antigua and Barbuda, in less than 40 days. Others are rowing across what some call “the pond” individually or in teams of two, three or four. No one else with ALS will be on a team, according to Alderman. The team of six met in Port Townsend, Wash., recently for a mandatory practice. “It was a great opportunity for our team to learn and to bond,” he said. Alderman’s job title, in fact, is “Chief Inspiration Officer at Row4ALS.” “All of us have been inspired by Alan toward the team goal of helping to find a cure for ALS,” reads the team description at taliskerwhiskyatlanticchallenge.com. “It was simply a natural reflex to choose ALS as our charitable cause. Raising funds for ALS was a building block of our team. Upon meeting and spending time with Alan, other team candidates were inspired to row with us and complete this journey.” Anyone interested in donating to the cause can find information at row4als.org. A boat that is being specially built for their team is nearing completion. “The boat has to be fully self-contained,” said Alderman. “If we need any assistance then we’re disqualified from the race. Basically we’re on our own.” “Our goal is to help find a cure and rid the world of ALS,” writes Alderman. “My personal goal is to not only do that but also show that a diagnosis of ALS is not the end, it is but the beginning of a journey that has challenges, but also many great blessings. ALS may end my life, but it will not destroy it.” “Not everyone can row across the ocean,” he said. “I don’t even know if I can yet, but we all need to do what we can.”

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