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Corvette Caravan Collects For Lou Gehrig's Disease

Source: The Grand Rapids Press
By Charles Honey
May 12, 2006

The Rev. Ed Dobson and John "J.J." Bouma Jr. share a passion for three things: God, the open road and hot sports cars. Both men also have ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

So come Thursday, the retired pastor and the construction executive will take gleaming new Corvettes onto America's most fabled road, Route 66. Joining them will be about 40 friends driving a dozen 2005 Corvettes across the country.

Their quest: to raise awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and the money to fight it. They're off to a roaring start, with $200,000 already raised by "Cruise 66 for ALS." "He and I plan to have fun," said Dobson, 56, who was forced to retire last year from Calvary Church. "I plan to enjoy every day and embrace it as a gift from God."

Bouma, 54, can speak very little, but added with a smile, "Amen."

The caravan is due to arrive in Santa Monica, Calif., on May 24. There, they hope to present a check for at least $330,000 to the ALS Association. The money will be used by the West Michigan chapter to assist area ALS patients as well as fund national research into a disease that afflicts some 30,000 Americans. ALS attacks nerves and debilitates muscles, leading to paralysis and death within two to five years.

About 125 people are known to have ALS in West Michigan, but that's probably about one-third the actual number, says Tom Farley, area executive director. By meeting with patients and media wherever it goes, the entourage should greatly increase understanding of ALS, Farley says.

"ALS is not just Lou Gehrig's disease," Farley said. "It's Ed Dobson's disease. It's John Bouma's disease."

The project has taken off quickly, zipping past the initial fund-raising goal of $66,000.

Dobson's son, Sgt. Daniel Dobson, will drive with him before returning for another tour of duty in Iraq. Scott Bouma, 30, will take turns at the wheel with his dad.

ALS has taught him to cherish such experiences, Dobson said.

"Those beautiful Corvettes are not all that important," he said. "My relationship with God, my family and friends -- that's what matters."