OWINGS MILLS, Md. - ALS may have taken away his ability to walk, speak, even breathe on his own. But the disease has not taken away OJ Brigance's fighting spirit or his drive to help those just like him.
It's been almost seven years since Brigance received the news that would change his life forever-- he had ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Since then, he's made it his mission to not only prevent the disease from taking over his life but do whatever he could to improve the lives of others also living with ALS. With the help of his wife Chanda, Brigance formed the Brigance Brigade Foundation.
"We are here to bridge the gap between isolation and interaction with the society around us," he said.
Next month, his charity is holding the first Brigance Brigade 5.7k run event. The proceeds will go toward his foundation, which provides equipment and services to ALS patients. They use the money to purchase things like wheelchairs, communication devices and fund services like respite care.
ALS stands for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It is a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Even though it's caused Brigance to lose most of his basic motor functions, like speaking and breathing, it's also helped him gain a new perspective on life.
"When you are dependent on others for the most basic of needs, it humbles you and makes you appreciate the kindness of others."
He chose a 5.7k to represent the number he wore on the field, number 57. He says it's only three-tenths of a mile longer than the traditional 5k race, so there's "no need to be alarmed."
In addition to the 5.7k run, there is also a one mile fun run and a kids run and walk. Runners and their families can take part in the Celebration Village afterwards, for music, food and other entertainment.
The event is taking place Saturday, April 5 at the Canton Waterfront Park in Baltimore. For more information about the event and the Brigance Brigade, click here .