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LOHS football team cuts ribbon to begin annual walk to support locals living with ALS

COURTESY PHOTO - The LOHS cuts the ribbon to begin the Walk to Defeat ALS on Sunday.The Lake Oswego High School football team participated once again in the Walk to Defeat ALS in Portland Sunday, Sept. 29 in downtown Portland. The team cut the ribbon to begin the walk, in a team-wide show of support for Laker assistant head coach Jeff Young.

The annual Walk to Defeat ALS is a fundraiser to help people living with ALS in the Portland area. The Walk to Defeat ALS Association uses the money raised to fund education, support groups, access to care and advocacy to defeat ALS and provide hope to people living with ALS and their families.

ALS is close to home for the LOHS football team because of Young, who was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, 36 years ago. No cure for ALS has been discovered despite years of research, and when a person is diagnosed with ALS, they're only given three to five years to live.

However, Young has beat the odds — he still lives in Lake Oswego and is still involved with the football program at LOHS. Every week, he writes inspirational messages for the team, and he's typically on the sidelines or watching from the mezzanine at every game.

"We walk every year for the Walk to Defeat ALS," said LOHS head football coach Steve Coury. "Jeff is in what I would consider the most difficult circumstances a person can face, but he brings such a positive attitude. He has a great deal of meaning to our kids past and present."

Coury said that Young shows students every week how lucky they are to have their health. "He shows them not to take life for granted," he said. "These are strong lessons that he provides, and they stick."

Coury said this year's Walk to Defeat ALS was a success, despite the cloudy weather. "It was great," he said. "I think the weather may have kept a few people home, but other than that it was just great."

Participating in the walk each year is a good reminder to Coury's players to appreciate their blessings, he said. "Every year that we do it it's a real reminder to give back," he said. "There is a lot of things going on in the world, and it's important to give back."COURTESY PHOTO - Jeff Young (center) with the Lake Oswego High School football team.

Young played football for LOHS, and said he got involved with the football program because he missed playing the game. Once involved, the brotherhood among the coaches hooked him, as well as the impact he sees his presence has on the kids.

"To think that they value what I do like that is just so humbling," Young said. "I'm not really known for being at a loss for words, but I just don't know how else to put it."

Young refers to himself as the Inspiration Coach for the Lakers, and sends weekly emails to the team to motivate them.

Jake Dukart, a former Laker quarterback who graduated last year, said Young is extremely influential and inspiring for the team.

"Every Wednesday, he writes messages for the team, motivating us for the game on Friday," he said. "It's a pretty big deal for the team."

Coury said he appreciates his teenage players giving up precious hours on the weekend to participate in the walk. "It was a great way to represent the school and the community," he said. "They have to give up a Sunday, and that's a big thing for kids to do. That's a really cool thing."

Participants in the walk can form teams to raise money in their name, and Young's team raised $25,000 thanks to a donation from Gameday Media presented during a LOHS football game a few weeks ago.

"This is an exciting opportunity for us to work together to support those affected by Lou Gehrig's Disease and to spread awareness of the urgency to find treatments and find a cure," said Young.

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