Lake Oswego coach battling ALS inspires players on the field and - KPTV - FOX 12

Lake Oswego coach battling ALS inspires players on the field and in life

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LAKE OSWEGO, OR (KPTV) -

Before the Lake Oswego Lakers dive into another Friday night under the lights, they turn on and tune in to Coach Jeff Young.

Young's mid-week motivational messages have been part of head coach Steve Coury's locker room for the past 14 seasons.

“The weekly message has just been a godsend,” Coury told FOX 12. “I have been here 26 years, and I don't have half of the impact of the kids that have been here.”

Young knows football. He's a 1980 graduate of Lake Oswego High who went on to play for Southern Oregon.

His days on the field were over, though, when young was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease, back in 1983.

“I can't explain the feeling I have about him and what he has taught me just in life, can't imagine going through what he goes through every day,” Coury said. “I have to remind the kids all of the time, he lives about five minutes from here but it takes him about two and a half hours to get here. We take that for granted. He's taught me a lot about trying to smell the roses if you will.”

It is a lesson in enjoying each and every moment, and Young sure does.

“It is a tremendous opportunity to affect kids and maybe even their future positively,” he said. “I call it the ripple effect when you can instill something positive in someone else's life and they turn and show that in somebody else's life, that's like a big ripple effect. Like throwing a stone in a pond. A big wave of positivity.”

Young’s perseverance is leaving a wake of strength for the Lakers.

“It's amazing how he hits it. What we need to hear or sort of what the kids need to focus on or maybe where they've failed to focus on,” Coury marveled.

Lake Oswego head baseball coach Jake Anders also spent 18 years on Coury's Laker staff along with Coach Young, and he said he knows that young sees the impact he can have on students.

“While he has been a huge impact in all of our lives, it's also given him a reason to keep pushing and be a motivation to us and to the kids and to the program,” he said.

With the help of the students in his marketing entrepreneurship class, Anders is helping a grassroots effort led by Laker students and the Lake Oswego community is giving back to the ALS Association and the Friends of Jeff Foundation.

“What he's done for us is not repayable so for us to raise this money, it's something small,” student Andrew Ramey said. What he has done for us and how much he has shown us how to fight, there is no amount of money to repay what Coach Jeff Young has done for us.”

Their lofty goal is $480,000 with Nike and a private investor pledging to match every dollar they raise.

“On average, it costs a person living with ALS about $250,000 a year to live and that's an exorbitant amount of money for anyone,” Anders explained. “So every dollar that we can contribute will help him in regards to his yearly survival.”

The near half-million-dollar benchmark stems from Jeff's signature logo that pervades the Lakers' locker room, stadium and mentality - LO 48.

“He was mad at us for not playing 48 minutes, which is the length of the game,” Coury explained. “So we got a lecture from him and it became LO 48.”

While that lesson may have started as a message to not stop playing until the final whistle, everyone agrees it can be applied to so much more than sports.

“It really goes beyond that, it's kind of life,” Coury said. “Live each moment and give your best every moment that you have.”

“It means don't give up, don't quit,” Ramey added. “Have pride in what you are doing as a Laker. Have pride in your teammates and have trust in every guy is going to do their job for 48 minutes.”

Despite the number of lives he has inspired, Young is still humbled by the attention.

“Actually, it kind of freaks me out a little bit because I had no idea when I came up with that it would turn into anything like this,” he told FOX 12. “The way the kids reacted was really the first time I realized just how much they paid attention and bought into what I had to say.”

Now, with the logo visible throughout the stadium, Young knows his message is moving team and the entire Laker community.

“Seeing it on the door and all, it's kind of taken on a mythic proportion almost,” he said.

The average patient lives three to five years after being diagnosed with ALS, but Young isn't average. He's an anomaly, struggling and surviving for 34 years, hence the help from Young's warriors - his boys, his school and his community.

“It's not just about Jeff Young, it's about the ALS Association,” Anders said. “50 percent of the proceeds are going to ALS and 50 percent of the proceeds are going to Jeff.”

The largest fundraiser in Lake Oswego High School history will culminate with next Friday's home football game and the girls soccer match on October 2. Both will be played in honor of Young and to those affected by ALS.

“It’s humbling, it means a lot and it will be a huge impact on me and my friends and family from a financial standpoint, so the impact on my life will be quite big,” Young said of the effort.

More than 5,600 people will be diagnosed with ALS this year, and as many as 30,000 Americans may be living with the disease.

Anyone want to help with the fundraiser can find out more at LO48ALS.com.

To read young's daily inspirationals, head to his website FriendsOfJeff.com.

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