The Golden West Chapter of The ALS Association will honor California state healthcare advocate, Jeremy Merz, as the Dean and Kathleen Rasmussen Advocate of the Year at their Champions for Cures and Care gala on Friday, January 20, 2023 at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport in Burlingame, CA. This inspirational and informative event celebrates individuals and organizations whose contributions and efforts advance the Chapter’s mission critical activities.
Supporters of the ALS community are invited to enjoy an elegant and festive evening featuring cocktails and wine tasting; a silent and live auction; gourmet dinner; special guest appearances; entertainment; and the presentation of the Golden West Chapter’s highest honors, The Essey Awards, which include the Rasmussen Advocate of the Year Award. Named for one of the Chapter’s founding board members, San Francisco’s Richard “Dick” Essey, the prestigious Essey Awards are given annually for outstanding efforts in support of mission priorities in ALS research, care services, and advocacy.
This past year, Jeremy Merz leveraged his professional expertise and network to improve access to care and accelerate the search for effective treatments and cures for ALS. He is the Department Vice President, State Government Relations for American Property Casualty Insurance Association. As a California lobbyist, Merz worked closely with the Golden West Chapter leadership to advance a one-time allocation of $2,000,000 in state funding in support of the organization’s Wraparound model of care.
This additional funding will fuel essential care services, the development of two new Certified Treatment Centers of Excellence (CTCE) and will support five multidisciplinary satellite ALS clinics. The funding will also cover costs for durable medical and communication equipment and will offset out-of-pocket costs for respite care for ALS families. The request was approved by Governor Newsom in the 2022 Budget Act. This victory for the ALS community is particularly poignant, given Merz’s diagnosis with ALS, in March 2022, at the age of 42.
“I am truly honored to receive this recognition from the Golden West Chapter, and it is humbling to receive an award that has been bestowed on great champions in the fight against ALS,” said Merz. “Together, we are making progress and improving lives for patients and families, and yet we still have much more to accomplish as a community. As I continue my battle with ALS, I am committed to strengthening our advocacy to accelerate the search for a cure so that my daughters can live in a world where this disease is treatable and curable.”
Merz’s battle with the challenges of this devastating neurodegenerative disease has been inspirational to all who know him. This is not the first time that he has faced personal hardship. His college football plans at Idaho State were sidelined due to a brain injury. After his football career ended, he transferred to UC Davis, graduated, and later went to law school at the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law where he graduated with distinction and served on the editorial board of the McGeorge Law Review. He and wife, Megan, live in the Sacramento area with their 4-year-old daughter and 10-week-old twin girls. They found out they were going to have twins a month before his diagnosis.
“We are grateful to the California Legislature for expanding critical funding for our Wraparound model of care for people living with ALS, and we are proud to present the Dean and Kathleen Rasmussen Advocate of the Year to Jeremy Merz for his efforts as a champion for treatments and cures for people with ALS,” said Fred Fisher, President & CEO of the Golden West Chapter. “Our evidence-based model ensures access to vital care services, free-of-charge, to people with ALS and their families, empowers members of the ALS community to participate in promoting important public policy initiatives, and accelerates scientific discovery.”
Proceeds from Champions for Cures and Care will provide funding for the Golden West Chapter’s mission priorities in care services, public policy, and cutting-edge global research toward effective treatments and cures for ALS. Sponsorship and ticket purchase opportunities are now available. Please contact Asher Garfinkel, Vice President of Community Outreach, at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. If you are interested in donating an item to be included in the silent or live auction, or if you are attending the event and wish to stay at the host hotel, the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport, please email Katey Randall, Special Events Coordinator, at email@example.com.