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Jake Kennedy ALS Fund reaches $500K milestone

Kennedy family


Since launching in 2019, the Jake Kennedy ALS Fund has raised more than $500,000 to support groundbreaking ALS research at UMass Chan Medical School. For the family behind the fund, this milestone carries deep personal meaning, and brings hope of effective treatment for this progressive and ultimately fatal neurological disease.

Jake Kennedy’s diagnosis of ALS in 2019 was devasting but not a surprise. Jake’s father, Chris, and younger brother, Jimmy, died of the disease, and another brother, Richard, was diagnosed in 2016. Jake faced his own diagnosis with his usual determination, immediately launching the Jake Kennedy ALS Fund, alongside his family. The goal is to raise at least $1 million for ALS research at UMass Chan.

Since Jake died in October 2020 at age 65, his family has forged ahead in this effort, raising funds to support the groundbreaking work of Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, the Donna M. and Robert J. Manning Chair in Neurosciences and professor of neurology.

“It’s very humbling to be able to raise this money,” said Jake’s son, Zach Kennedy, on reaching the $500,000 milestone. “It shows what an amazing network my dad had. He dedicated his whole life to helping others. We’re thrilled and 100 percent committed.”

Jake’s wife, Sparky Kennedy, added, “It’s what Jake would have wanted. He was so excited to try and raise $1 million. He was always in the present.”

The Kennedy family’s commitment to finding an effective treatment for ALS extends beyond fundraising; Zack is also a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Brown’s lab. Said Sparky, “Jake was very proud of Zack.”

The family expressed gratitude to all the supporters of the fund.

“If you’re donating, a huge thank you,” said Zack. “This is a horrible disease. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. At UMass Chan, we are tantalizingly close to a meaningful treatment. We are so close to that line. We are humbled and honored to everyone helping us, because we don’t want anyone else to suffer from ALS.”

The Jake Kennedy ALS Fund is one part of the Kennedy family’s longstanding commitment to helping others. Since 1989, the family has organized the well-known Christmas in the City celebration to brighten the holiday season for thousands of homeless children in Boston. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the 2022 event will bring gifts and holiday cheer directly to homeless shelters.

Jake’s generous, indomitable spirit lives on through his family and philanthropic legacy and the hope is that it will help drive the Jake Kennedy ALS Fund beyond the $1 million finish line. For more information about the Kennedy family and their goal to find a cure for ALS at UMass Chan Medical School visit