When Gary Galene’s father, Gilles, lost his battle with ALS in November 2012, he and his family found themselves unable to do an early return of Gilles’ leased 2011 Porsche Panamera. So instead of letting it sit and gather dust, Gary had an extraordinary idea: he turned the situation into a unique opportunity to raise awareness about ALS from coast to coast. Along with his three close friends – Matt Kaplan, Trent Olsen and Rob Robol – Gary used the remaining allotted miles to go on a road trip of a lifetime, with the aim of broadening the public’s knowledge of ALS. They called this project “The PanAmerica”.
After securing corporate partners like TMobile and California Pizza Kitchen to help with road trip logistics and expenses, the crew created a custom car wrap filled with infographics, The ALS Association logos, and other campaign information to attract the general public’s attention. They began their journey on Saturday, July 27 from Marina Del Rey, California, where Gilles sailed from for many years. Their route included the perimeter of the United States – Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, New York, Massachusetts, Michigan, Illinois, South Dakota, Wyoming and Washington – before returning to California. Their travels included stops at many important American locations: the Grand Canyon, the Alamo, Niagara Falls, and Mt. Rushmore.
They stayed with family and friends, sometimes just for a few hours before hitting the road again. They also visited special places within the ALS community, such as former NFL player Steve Gleason’s headquarters for Team Gleason in New Orleans and The ALS Association Golden West Chapter’s office in the San Francisco bay area.
Their story was picked up by television station WCCB in Charlotte, through a reporter who had a personal connection to family members served by the Golden West Chapter in California. It was also covered by television station KPIX 5 in San Francisco. But one of the most unexpected highlights of the trip was a surprise visit with former San Francisco mayor and current California Lt. Governor, Gavin Newsom.
The PanAmerica crew members were extremely touched and a bit in awe of the Lt. Governor’s generosity of time and good humor. “My hand still smells handsome!” said Trent. “I am ready to say ‘Go Governor Gavin Newsom!'” They were amazed by his down-to-earth discussion about the circumstances that led to their decision to make such a trip, and his willingness to sign their car as so many others on their journey had done. “I really appreciate that he took the time to meet with us and by doing so, helped to raise even more awareness for our cause,” shared Matt.
“When I embarked on this journey, I never thought that it would grow to the level of popularity that it has,” shared Gary. “But I can think of no better way to cap off our 10,000 mile charity road trip for The ALS Association Golden West Chapter than by meeting Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom.”
He continued, “Having a disease like ALS is devastating to families. By taking this journey, we hope we educated people about the disease and the importance of raising funds, not only to help people with ALS get the care they need, but also to help support research to find the cure.”
After this visit in San Francisco, the crew said their goodbyes and headed back on the road to Los Angeles, where family and friends eagerly awaited them. And rest assured, they are already discussing plans for part two of their adventure.
To make a donation, please visit www.ThePanAmerica.com.