A local singer in New Jersey may not be able to play the piano anymore due to ALS, but he can still sing and he’ll do so at the Yankee Stadium for Lou Gehrig’s day.
Jerry Tolve of Essex County is set to sing the national anthem next week, June 2. The Major Baseball League's announced earlier this year that the sports organization will hold yearly events to celebrate the former Yankee's legacy, as well as bring awareness to the neurodegenerative disease named after him.
Tolve, 60, had been diagnosed with the same condition but you'd never know just from watching him sing. The musician has one of the smoothest voices in the state and he has performed with the greats like Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder.
"I might look okay sitting here and if you see me sing, you would never know anything is wrong with me. I'm wasting away, you might say," Tolve said.
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But some would disagree because Tolve is still able to perform and next week's show could be the most important of his career. "I'm humbled. I'm honored and humbled," he said.
Like Gehrig, who was diagnosed with ALS at the top of his game, Tolve has used his diagnosis to do more, to perform more, to travel more, until he no longer can. His goal is to bring attention to the currently uncurbable disease that affects 12,000 - 15,000 Americans each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The cause of ALS is unknown but researchers believe many factors, such as heredity and environmental exposure, could be linked.
The ice bucket challenge famous brought attention to ALS years ago but Tolve says there's more work to be done, and he doesn't have much time. The musician is among those who are pushing to the Federal Drugs Administration to approve experimental drugs to treat the unrelenting disease.
"It might be dramatic but I may not be here in two years. I don't have five or ten years to wait for the 'procedure' to go through all medical fields," Tolve said.
For now, Tolve is taking it one day at a time and each day is getting harder. In addition to not being able to play instruments anymore, he can't hold a microphone for very long. He also has to wear a belt around his diaphragm to sing, but his lungs are still functioning and that's the gift that pushes him forward.
"I'm just happy to even be singing here if there are two people in the audience. And if I move them, I'm having a good night," Tolve added.