Fundraisers take on 17,000kg plane in support of ALS patients

A long-running charity event in support of patients with ALS is aiming for a record donations haul.

Teams of fundraisers gathered on the tarmac at Billy Bishop Airport Saturday morning where they took turns pulling a nearly 17,000 kilogram plane down the runway.

The ninth annual Plane Pull to end ALS set a fundraising goal of $160,000 for this year's event, a major bump from the $95,000 raised last year.

"Funds from activities like today are so critical to helping our charity," said Tammy Moore, CEO of the ALS Canada.

The organization estimates that around 1,000 Ontarians are living with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Across Canada, the disease affects around 3,000 patients.

ALS gradually paralyzes people by essentially cutting off communication between the brain and the body. Patients are typically given two to five years to live after a diagnosis.

James Morrison-Collalto/CBC

"It's a ruthless disease," said Eric Levesque, a participant who lost his best friend Eddy Lefrançois to ALS in 2018. "It took everything away from him, except his mind and his will to fight."

Levesque's team was the top fundraiser at Saturday's event, with a haul of more than $10,000.

"I've always tried to do everything I could so we could raise as much as awareness and funds for the cause, so eventually we'll find a treatment," he said.

"This is what we need to get this disease resolved once and for all."

Money raised at the event will go toward supporting ALS patients and their families as they cope with the disease.

The donations also go toward research. ALS Canada funds peer-reviewed studies and hands out research grants.

Around $1.5 to $2 million is spent on ALS research every year in Canada.