Thousands come out for annual Walk to Defeat ALS

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RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Bright and beautiful weather on Saturday provided perfect conditions for the 19th annual Walk to Defeat ALS in Raleigh.

Thousands of people walked through downtown streets, a crowd that included Bobbi Stogner.

"I've seen what ALS can do to people, to a family," she told ABC11. "It's a devastating disease, and I'm really grateful to everybody who pitches in to help. From the moment that Larry was diagnosed, there's been so much support and prayers.

She's the widow of Larry Stogner, the longtime ABC11 anchor who died in 2016 months after his ALS diagnosis.

READ MORE: Larry Stogner, veteran, ABC11 anchor, dies

It affected his mobility and his ability to speak, so he signed off with a farewell message that made many viewers cry and retired early.

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Larry told viewers that he is suffering from ALS, and that is ending his broadcasting career.

"There are about 16,000 people in the U.S. living with ALS each year," said Melanie McCullough of the ALS Association. "There are about 800 people in North Carolina impacted by it every year."

There is no cure for ALS, and the physical decline of patients often takes a toll on families and care providers.

"Watching someone going from talking, no longer being able to talk or move, do the things that require daily assistance" are among the biggest challenges according to Lisa Nwakpuda, an ALS caregiver who participated in the walk along with her patient and his family.

But the support felt when surrounded by so many people on the same journey make the annual walk special for people like Saundra Leach, widow of an ALS patient.

"It was about my husband; it was about James Leach initially," she said. "But as we traveled into our second year walking, it wasn't about him anymore. It's about those who are still struggling with this battle. It's not just about one person. It's about all of them."
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