Luker Courage Award to Honor ‘Tenacious Spirit’ of ALS Community

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by Forest Ray PhD |

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Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma America (MTPA) and Target ALS welcome nominations for the Target ALS Rebecca Luker Courage Award, honoring those who have demonstrated courage and made a positive impact on the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) community over the past year.

“We have dedicated ourselves to a singular focus — helping patients,” Atsushi Fujimoto, president of MTPA, said in a press release.

“While we strive for the advancement of ALS research and treatment,” Fujimoto said, “we are stronger when fighting together with our advocacy partners and many members of the ALS community. We are tremendously honored to present the Target ALS Rebecca Luker Courage Award to members of the ALS community who tackle seemingly impossible challenges with a tenacious spirit.”

The award is named in honor of the American actress Rebecca Luker, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2019 and died about a year later, at age 59, of disease complications. Luker was a prolific performer, appearing in numerous Broadway and off-Broadway productions, as well as several movies and shows. She made her first major Broadway debut in 1988, as Christine in “The Phantom of the Opera.”

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From July through September, people within the ALS community can nominate a deserving individual — patients, caregivers, researchers, and disease advocates — for the award. A five-person selection committee, drawn from members of the ALS and Broadway communities, will review nominations and determine winners based on each candidate’s innovation, collaboration, effectiveness, and reach.

Points the selection committee will consider while reviewing candidates include their unique approach to fighting ALS and what new contribution they brought to the community, their efforts to rally others to join them in ways that made an undertaking more effective, how significant an impact they have had, and the degree to which their work has influenced others.

Awards categories include one for “Unsung Hero” and up to three “Awards of Recognition,” as well as the Courage award itself. The awards do not include a monetary value.

Nominees must be at least 18 years old and reside in the United States. Other eligibility criteria may be found on the award’s information webpage.

Multiple entries are allowed, with each recognizing one person, and nominations will be accepted through Sept. 30. Winners will be announced in the fall.

“Because Rebecca’s story and courageous spirit resonates with so many, we, together with MTPA, were inspired to celebrate individuals making a difference in the fight against ALS,” said Manish Raisinghani, PhD, CEO of Target ALS. “We look forward to receiving entries and reading who the ALS community feels is deserving of this award. There are so many individuals making a difference, we look forward to seeing the nominations.”

Rebecca Luker is survived by her husband, Danny Burstein, an actor and singer, and a seven-time Tony award nominee, which recognizes excellence in theater work.

“I’m extremely proud that Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma America and Target ALS chose to honor Rebecca with an award that recognizes individuals who are making a real difference in the lives of families affected by ALS,” Burstein said.

“Rebecca did everything she could while she was with us to raise awareness of ALS and funds for a cure,” Burstein added. “While we are heartbroken that the proper therapies and a cure weren’t discovered in time for Rebecca, knowing her legacy of advocacy will be honored this way brings great solace to our family.”