ALS Association


How the Walk to Defeat ALS Has Grown Over 20 Years

When warriors in the fight against ALS came together in Union City, Tennessee, for their Walk to Defeat ALS®, they helped kick off The ALS Association’s 20th anniversary of the event. 

The Walk to Defeat ALS brings together people with ALS, caregivers, and advocates every year to keep momentum going in the fight against the disease. Drawing people of all ages and athletic abilities together to honor people who are affected by ALS, remember those who have passed, and to show support for the cause, these events help expand the programs and services that benefit people living with the disease in our local communities across the nation.

Over the past 20 years more than 125,000 walk teams have participated in events around the country, raising more than $360 million to help support the many programs and services for people living with ALS and their families, while raising critical awareness of ALS nationwide.

The Walk to Defeat ALS certainly has come a long way in the last two decades. What began as a national event twenty years ago 13 events has grown in size and scope to 174 events in 2020. 

The first steps toward that nationwide event actually happened in Pittsburgh in 1993 with volunteers led by Bob Kelley and Rita Patchan. 

The team got in touch with the Allegheny Parks Department, got part of a park to use, and the rest is history. The first Pittsburgh walk for ALS was officially born.

“I think we had about 30 people at the first walk. We raised about $300,” Kelley said. Over time, the event grew. “We got more and more people every year,” Kelley said, “because walking is easy most people can do it. You can have 80-year-old people do it, 20-year-old people, 5-year-old people. You can have anybody do this.”

The success of the Walk program over the course of its lifetime is all because of people like you our volunteers, donors, participants, families, and sponsors. We can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done for the ALS community, and for all you continue to do!

To learn more about the Walk to Defeat ALS and how you can get involved, visit