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Jake Kennedy ALS Fund to support research at UMass Medical School

By Lisa M. Larson

UMass Medical School Communications

December 26, 2019
Sparky and Jake Kennedy were interviewed by WBZ TV’s Lisa Hughes at UMass Medical School.

Jake and Sparky Kennedy, long known for their generosity as founders of the annual Boston Christmas in the City celebration for thousands of homeless children, are launching a new drive to raise $1 million to support research at UMass Medical School to cure ALS. Jake Kennedy, 64, was recently diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that claimed the lives of his father, Chris, and younger brother, Jimmy.  Jake’s brother, Richard Kennedy, has lived with ALS since 2016.

“I'm very optimistic about a cure," said Jake Kennedy in an interview with WBUR’s Here & Now host Robin Young. “This is a time like no other time in research.”

All funds contributed to the Jake Kennedy ALS Fund will support the work of Robert H. Brown Jr., MD, DPhil, the Leo P. and Theresa M. LaChance Chair in Medical Research, and professor of neurology. Zack Kennedy, PhD, one of Jake and Sparky’s four children, is a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Brown’s lab and is focused on helping to find a cure for ALS.

 “We are racing to get drugs out there and they are coming soon,” Zack Kennedy said in an interview with WBZ/CBS Boston reporter Lisa Hughes.

Dr. Brown is an internationally known researcher and clinician leading the quest to cure ALS and other neurodegenerative and neuromuscular diseases. He is credited with leading a team of researchers who discovered the first gene linked to the inherited form of ALS, a protein anti-oxidant known as superoxide dismutase, or SOD1.

“This is an exciting time because we have more targets than ever before with designer therapies; that's critical,” Brown told WCVB TV reporter Mary Saladna. “The other really exciting aspect is there are more laboratories studying the general problem—both its basis and its treatment. There are more companies than ever before now investing very serious dollars to try to find a cure for ALS.”

Learn more about the Kennedy family and their goal to fund a cure for ALS at UMass Medical School at:

Read the full media coverage on the family and their campaign, below:

CBS Boston: Christmas in the City Co-founders Launch $1M Fundraising Campaign for ALS

WBUR Here & Now: Christmas in the City Thrives as Founder Battles ALS

WCVB: Founder of Christmas in the City who is battling ALS starts research fund

Boston Globe: Christmas in the City thrills homeless families, takes on poignancy with founder’s ALS diagnosis


NBC 10: Christmas in the City 2019