Every year, family and friends of Ernie Wallengren get together at Calabasas High School in California to play basketball. The event is called Hoopfest. Participants honor Ernie's life by donating money for ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease) research. Producer Dani Hayes traveled to learn more about the event as well as Ernie’s impact on his community.
Ernie had a passion for basketball and coaching. He supported his young players until he passed away in 2003. His dream was to find a cure for ALS. His family hosts Hoopfest so they can continue that dream.
For Ernie, the first sign of muscle weakness appeared after a minor leg injury from a pick-up basketball game. He never fully healed, and eventually he was diagnosed with ALS, a disease that completely attacks the body’s nervous system. Ernie worked as a successful TV producer, but basketball was his true love. It was also the means by which he changed lives. His example of determination in the face of illness alone was enough to motivate his young players and other friends to be stronger themselves.
Listen to the episode for more on how the money is raised and why it matters to Ernie and so many others. At the end of the episode, you will hear an interview with Ernie’s sister Kristen Garbett and her son Thomas. They share what they loved most about Ernie.