05/06/13 1:53pm
05/06/2013 1:53 PM

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Gerry Hayden and Chris Pendergast make their way down Old Sound Avenue in Mattituck on Monday, the first day of the annual Ride for Life event.

The annual ALS Ride for Life event, which raises funds and awareness of the illness once called Lou Gehrig’s Disease, began in Southold on Monday and crossed Riverhead on the first day of a trip that will end at at Yankee Stadium in two weeks.

As always, the ride included Chris Pendergast, a 1966 Mercy High School graduate who suffers from ALS and launched the first Ride for Life in 1998.

He was accompanied by Gerry Hayden, chef at North Table & Inn in Southold, who was diagnosed with the fatal disease two years ago.

Both men rode in electric-powered wheelchairs.

In an interview with The Suffolk Times last year, Mr. Hayden said, “The most heinous part of this is it’s already taken my ability to work in the kitchen, work with my hands, but it will eventually take my ability to eat and breathe. I just thought it was going to be some sort of rheumatoid arthritis from using my hands my whole life.

“I just figured I was getting to that stage a little bit earlier than I should be.”

ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, attacks the cells connecting the brain to various muscles by way of the spinal cord leading to paralysis. There is no cure.

ALS first became known when it ended the career, and eventually the life, of New York Yankees star Lou Gehrig.

tkelly@timesreview.com