Rockdale County, generally, takes care of its own. And sometimes, exceptionally so. Just ask Brad Boling. The Conyers native and Rockdale County Public School's Director of Business Services was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, a year and a half ago. Since then, his community has rallied around him in remarkable ways.
ALS is a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement, affecting breathing, speech, swallowing, walking - any limb function - and it progresses rapidly.
Boling, a 45-year-old husband and father of two, believes he may have found a life line with a stem cell procedure.
Last month while on a family vacation in Gulf Shores, Ala., his wife's aunt learned of an area doctor performing stem cell transplants with notable results.
Doctors removed cells through a liposuction procedure on his stomach and "spinned" the cells separating the stem cells from the fat cells. Then, the stem cells were injected in his spine, forearms and calves. So far, it's been a good call. He's back at work and said his speech is improving, and he's been able to walk. Doctors expect more progress in the next six to nine months.
Since the surgery is deemed experimental, insurance does not cover it. Fortunately for Boling, his community already had it handled. Earlier in the summer, lifelong friend Jenny Gentle Benson organized a poker tournament benefit and silent auction at the Celtic Tavern which raised $15,000 that night - enough to cover the stem cell procedure.
Their friends did not fold there. There was a 5K race benefiting the ALS Foundation in Boling's honor on July 23 in Olde Town. And, one of Boling's favorite lunchtime haunts, the soda fountain at Evans Pharmacy, has an ongoing "Mr. Hot Dog" event - dubbed this by the counter staff after his regular order - on the second Wednesday of the month.
With a donation, hot dog meals are complimentary from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The next "Mr. Hot Dog" day is Aug. 8. In the last three months, in little more than six hours, Vince Evans said they have raised $2,584. "People wanted to help this family," said Evans. "It's a way to give on his behalf." Hot dog and bun suppliers have even gotten on board donating supplies.
To contribute to Team Boling, stop by Evans Pharmacy on Aug. 8 from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 933 Center Street in Conyers or contact Jennie Gentle Benson, of Gentle HOPE, at firstname.lastname@example.org.