A Long Swim has announced that it has made a significant gift to Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. The gift will fund the Ellen McConnell Blakeman ALS Research Fellowship, and it will provide for a post-doctoral fellow to engage in the important research work of the Ozdinler ALS Research Lab at Northwestern School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois. The Ozdinler Lab is headed up by P. Hande Ozdinler, PhD. Dr. Ozdinler has made remarkable discoveries in a career that has been dedicated to ALS research. Dr. Ozdinler was the first high-profile ALS researcher in the world to identify the importance of studying the mechanisms for deterioration of upper motor neurons in ALS patients, which study has now become one of the essential areas for focus among ALS researchers worldwide. Further, Dr. Ozdinler’s ALS research is done collaboratively with other research centers around the world; that teamwork approach really appeals to A Long Swim.
This ALS Research Fellowship is named after Ellen McConnell Blakeman, who lost her battle with ALS in February 2018 after a 12-year struggle with the disease. Ellen McConnell Blakeman led a life of excellence as a trailblazer for equal rights, as a businesswoman, as an athlete, and as a public relations expert in crisis management. Her passion was exemplified by the fact that she was a co-founder of A Long Swim along with her brother, Doug McConnell. Hence, it is fitting that A Long Swim is able to fund an ALS research fellowship in her memory. “Ellen was the source of all of the great ideas for A Long Swim,” Doug McConnell noted. “She had great admiration for Dr. Ozdinler’s work, and was convinced that her research would lead to breakthroughs. She also loved Dr. Ozdinler’s commitment to collaborative research, as Ellen saw the clear evidence that the pace of discovery would be accelerated with teamwork.”
Ellen’s son, Brenten Blakeman, said, “My brother and I have been honored to carry on our mother’s work towards finding a cure to this awful disease, and to do so with her determination and passion. She was a strong believer in Dr. Ozdinler and her lab. The A Long Swim team and I couldn’t be more excited to add support to Dr. Ozdinler’s lab and, while she may not have preferred the recognition, honor her legacy.” Bennett Blakeman added, “Although Mom would be humbly embarrassed to have this fellowship named after her, our commitment to ensure her legacy continues to live on is unwavering. As a mother, her support for Brenten and I in all of our endeavors in life was just as strong as when she was while fighting ALS. She is loved and missed dearly. I can’t think of a better team than Dr. Ozlinder’s lab to partner with for this fellowship, as Mom embodied the idea of collaboration in every aspect of her life.”
We need your help to be a part of this important work so this Fellowship can be sustained. To be a part of the Ellen McConnell Blakeman ALS Research Fellowship, contributions may be made online HERE. A Long Swim is a 501(c)3 nonprofit recognized by the IRS. It is dedicated to using open water and marathon-distance swimming and athletic events to bring awareness and funding to ALS research and, ultimately, building a permanent linkage between the sport and the disease it supports. A Long Swim has raised money by capitalizing on swims of the English Channel and other ocean swims, hosting competitive open water swimming events, and by sponsoring triathletes. Since its founding, A Long Swim has succeeded in raising more than $500,000 for ALS research.