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Jake Kennedy ALS Fund created to support research at UMass Chan Medical School

Jake and Sparky Kennedy, long known for their generosity as founders of the annual Boston Christmas in the City celebration for thousands of homeless children, launched a new drive in 2019 to raise $1 million to support research at UMass Medical School to cure ALS. Jake Kennedy, 64, was diagnosed late that year with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that claimed the lives of his father, Chris, and younger brother, Jimmy. Jake’s brother, Richard Kennedy, has lived with ALS since 2016.

“I'm very optimistic about a cure," said Jake Kennedy, pictured above with Sparky in an interview with WBUR’s Here & Now host Robin Young. “This is a time like no other time in research.”

All funds contributed to the Jake Kennedy ALS Fund support the work of Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, the Leo P. and Theresa M. LaChance Chair in Medical Research, and professor of neurology. Zack Kennedy, PhD, one of Jake and Sparky’s four children, is a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Brown’s lab and is focused on helping to find a cure for ALS.

“We are racing to get drugs out there and they are coming soon,” Zack Kennedy said in an interview with WBZ/CBS Boston reporter Lisa Hughes.

Dr. Brown is an internationally known researcher and clinician leading the quest to cure ALS and other neurodegenerative and neuromuscular diseases. He is credited with leading a team of researchers who discovered the first gene linked to the inherited form of ALS, a protein anti-oxidant known as superoxide dismutase, or SOD1.

“This is an exciting time because we have more targets than ever before with designer therapies; that's critical,” Brown told WCVB TV reporter Mary Saladna. “The other really exciting aspect is there are more laboratories studying the general problem—both its basis and its treatment. There are more companies than ever before now investing very serious dollars to try to find a cure for ALS.”

Learn more about the Kennedy family and their goal to fund a cure for ALS at UMass Medical School at:

Read the full media coverage on the family and their campaign: