The Joe Martin ALS Foundation is the realization of an ALS patient’s dream to help families cope and live fully with ALS. After being told in October 1994, that he had Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) and 20 months to live, Joe Martin decided he would recover, if not from the disease, then from the diagnosis. He became determined to live as actively as possible and he deeply wanted to help others face the challenges presented by ALS. With the help of his family, friends, and other families who had been affected by ALS, Joe helped raise funds to establish the Carolinas Neuromuscular/ALS Center in Charlotte, N.C.
With the help of a supporting family and a team of caregivers Joe lived life to the fullest for twelve years after his diagnosis by publishing two books, traveling abroad, advocating for support for people with ALS (PALS), and for racial and gender equality. But Joe wanted to do more. He understood most PALS did not have the quality of care he received and Joe envisioned an organization that would help PALS live actively with ALS. Unfortunately Joe’s death in July 2006 prevented him from continuing his altruistic work. However, his caregivers founded the 501(c)(3) non-profit that bears his name on May 14, 2007, in Charlotte, N.C.
Neil Cottrell, the foundation’s president and Joe’s former healthcare manager, helped Joe confront each disability as the disease progressed, and Neil learned how important it is for PALS to maintain relationships, communication, and as much independence as possible. The Joe Martin ALS Foundation shares Joe’s “can do” spirit by encouraging PALS to live actively and by helping to find the answers to achieve this goal. Wheelchair accessible transportation, assistive technology loans and tech support, respite care, exercise sessions, home accessibility assessment, and vacation and trip planning are just a few of the services the foundation offers to help families battle ALS. The foundation is the only organization in the Southeast (possibly in the U.S.) that provides these services at no cost to ALS patients.