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updated: 7/13/2012 4:39 PM

Community rallies around North Barrington man with ALS

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  • The Launer Family: (from left) Aubrey, Kris, Paul and Sarah. Friends and family have organized the Love 4 the Launers event July 22 to help the family as Paul battles ALS.

      The Launer Family: (from left) Aubrey, Kris, Paul and Sarah. Friends and family have organized the Love 4 the Launers event July 22 to help the family as Paul battles ALS.
    Photo by Shannon Ramsdale

By Clara Bush

According to the ALS Foundation, approximately 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed each year with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Last June, North Barrington resident Paul Launer was one of them.

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But Launer hasn't taken his diagnosis negatively.

"Life can be wonderful or miserable," he said. "I've chosen to make the most of whatever time I have left."

To show support to the Launer family, a committee of nine friends and family, led by co-chairs Samantha Doughty and Dawn Patten, formed at the beginning of the year to do what they could to help.

"Everybody sort of felt a little powerless and they wanted to do something," Patten said.

They'll host their first event, Love 4 the Launers, at the Onion Pub & Brewery in Barrington from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, July 22. The event will include children's activities, a balloon artist, live music, and silent and live auctions. So far, more than 100 people have registered to attend.

Launer's wife, Kris, is on the committee, and she said she feels both unworthy of and astounded by the support and donations her family has received, even from people they don't know.

"I can't even tell you the outpouring of love we've received," she said. "It gives me chills."

The money raised at the benefit will go to the Launers, but Kris said they plan to donate some to Bob Lee's Ride for 3 Reasons. Lee, 70, will bike from Canada to Mexico starting in September as a way to raise $1 million for cancer research, ALS research and Hospice education.

Life expectancy after being diagnosed with ALS is only two to five years. The neuromuscular disease weakens and paralyzes muscles over time.

Launer's speech and mobility have been reduced, but he still coached soccer and led his daughters' Indian Princess tribe. He also volunteers and practices yoga, which helps stretch the muscles, with his wife and two daughters, Aubrey, 9, and Sarah, 8.

"His thing right now is spending time with the kids," Kris said. "You've got to enjoy every minute you have."

The event costs $50 for people 12 and older. People under 12 are free. For more information, email Patten at

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