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February 2014

N.Y. Members Help Fight Lou Gehrig's Disease with 'Ride For Life'
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D Edlin will never forget his year of kindergarten, when his class got to care for a few unlikely pets. Namely, rabbits, goats and other animals one might see around a small farm.

"It was a great experience to have as a little kid," the Long Island, N.Y., Local 25 apprentice said about the habitat program at Dickinson Avenue Elementary School.

Even more than the memories of the animals, Edlin connected with the teacher who ran the program — Chris Pendergast. A lifelong union activist with New York State United Teachers and an award-winning educator, Pendergast would go on to form a lifelong bond with Edlin and his family, serving as both a mentor and a friend who helped steer Edlin into his union career.

But tragedy struck the Pendergast family in 1993 when Chris was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. He was told at the time that he would have only six years to live.

Today, the former teacher is in his 60s after having lived with the disease for two decades. And despite medical setbacks that require Pendergast to use a motorized wheelchair, he has become one of the nation's more well-known and outspoken voices for ALS awareness and patients' rights, appearing on national TV with journalists like Tom Brokaw, Matt Lauer and Katie Couric.

"Chris has never lost hope," Edlin said. "It shows you how much a positive attitude can really affect the quality of your life."

Today, Edlin and his fellow members are a pivotal part of a popular annual event started by Pendergast in 1998. Called Ride For Life, the event features ALS patients using wheelchairs to ride across Long Island and into the heart of New York City, raising awareness for medical research and promoting visibility of those living with the disease. For 12 days in May, dozens of riders, advocates, caregivers and supporters will stop at local schools, businesses and government offices, returning home to rest at night before hitting the next leg of the journey the following morning.

Accompanied by Local 25 and N.Y. Local 3 volunteers, riders will be cheered on by the thousands of spectators who are expected to line the route as it winds its way into Manhattan.

Last year, Edlin had the chance to help usher the riders through. He said the experience of volunteering alongside his fellow members shows "what this means for us as a union community and family."

"With all the Local 25 volunteers, it creates a tremendous amount of camaraderie and brotherhood," Edlin said. "When we finish up, we have a sense of accomplishment. We have a feeling like, 'We helped make this happen.' One day, when a cure is found, everyone who has stepped forward can say they had a part."

Ride For Life has raised more than $7 million for ALS research and patient services. Local 25 and other organizations in the area assist with fundraising efforts year round before ramping up activity just ahead of the annual ride.

"There's nothing more loving than to give your life for your fellow man," Pendergast said to supporters at a stop during 2011's ride. "So I cannot imagine a better way of spending my life than giving it, so others may someday live."

Unions like Great Neck, N.Y., Teamsters Local 817 and NYSUT have been strong supporters of the ride since its inception. "Chris has forever been a friend of labor — and in turn, labor has forever been a friend of Chris," Edlin said.

This year's ride begins May 5 in eastern Long Island. For more information or to donate to the event, visit


Members of Long Island, N.Y., Local 25 raise money and awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease.