PHILADELPHIA -- Wes Rose walks with a cane and a smile. It's difficult to ignore the vibrancy with which the 35-year-old PhD and father of two lives each day. Although it took him a few months to first absorb his situation, to wipe away those original feelings of resentment and anger, for in May 2005, he was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease.Rose was one of many inspirations at the 18th Annual Phillies Phestival, at Citizens Bank Park on Monday night.
ALS carries a special place for Geary, who lost a close friend, Erich Wendel, to the disease."This year is different, because they're new patients and we have more people here this year, which makes you want to work even harder to find a cure," Geary said. "There was one patient I met tonight who's had ALS for 19 years -- 19 years! That's as long as you can fight it." Ellyn Phillips is the President of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the ALS Association. Her husband, Alan, died of ALS in 1984 and is the reason why the Phillies run the event. Phillips has seen the event blossom from when it made $300,000 in 1989 to doubling that figure last year. "It's really hard to imagine that it could have turned into this much of a success," Phillips said. "We couldn't do this without the Phillies, their owners and management team, and without the players. I mean, they're taking an off-day to sign autographs and take pictures all for this charity. These players, especially Geoff Geary, have really been outstanding every year with this. We're getting there, working to find a cure. It will happen. I obviously have personal reasons for finding a cure. But this is a fight I'll never give up. It's very personal for me." Phillies President Dave Montgomery says the Phillies are just a conduit, that the Phestival is about "the people who come and give their time and their money for this cause. A player taking the time out to sign something or to take a picture with someone can really make someone's day. This is probably the best weather we've had since we've been holding the event here at [Citizens Bank Park]." Shane Victorino and Greg Dobbs happily signed autographs and mingled with each of the fans at their table. For the players, the experience is a revelation. "It does make you appreciate things more, but looking at how positive these people are is also an inspiration," Victorino said. "You realize you can't take for granted you're life, but at the same time, you feel good because you're helping people less fortunate than yourself. It's all about them."
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.