Hopping on a plane to a place where literally hundred of thousands have taken over the city for the NFL Draft seemed like a crazy idea to me...but I went for a completely different (and worthy) reason.

(Photo from TAC)

For years I have been trying to do my small part to help raise money to find a cure for ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's Disease) because I truly believe that this cause is underfunded and that enough donations will lead to developing a drug to cure such a scary diagnosis.

I was invited to join a fundraising team that The Atlantic Club of Manasquan and Red Bank put together . Everyone's donations helped raise (along with some other gym teams) close to $500,000. We headed to Nashville to run in the Rock & Roll Marathon AND meet with some amazing heroes fighting their personal battles to live long lives despite suffering from ALS. We even met one young woman diagnosed with ALS who is still able to complete the marathons with the help of a special bike!

(The 5K began before the sun came up in Nashville, photo by Liz Jeressi)

Meeting these ALS-diagnosed, special people (including a songwriter who immediately went into a studio to record his music so that he wouldn't lose his life's work once he was diagnosed, and a young soldier who fought for our country) has only made me want to work harder to help find a cure through Augie's Quest.

(The wonderful supporters from The Atlantic Club who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars along with two beloved ALS victims, including the girl who can still do the raise on her special bike! Photo taken in Nashville)

Not only do we hope to see their muscles firing again one day, but our hearts go out to all of the family members and friends who work so hard to take care of their loved ones each and every day. ALS takes away the function of a victim's body, but leaves their mind sharp and in tact, which I can only imagine is about as scary as can be.

Can you imagine knowing exactly what is happening to your body and being unable to control the loss of your muscles? Can you put yourself in the shoes of a husband or wife who has to watch helplessly as this disease takes over their partner's body? Can you fathom watching someone who was once vibrant and active now fight to speak, eat, and walk? And then to spend every moment of the day taking care of them because they can no longer care for themselves?

Former American Idol contestant Ace Young hosted an amazing tribute to ALS victims and called me on stage to say a few words. Photo taken at the Tin Roof in Nashville)

That's why I went to Nashville. To show my love and support to the victims of ALS, and to work as hard as ever for every dollar donation I can get.

By the way, Nashville is an amazing town with so much music history, live music and amazing artists of all genres. Every corner you turn you will hear music spilling from a bar or restaurant or show. Nashville is full of walkable neighborhoods, honky-tonks and big shows in numerous venues. From full-on auditoriums to stadiums, museums and great food, to gigantic murals and down-home southern cooking, to the friendly people and lush greenery, historic buildings and hip, modern areas, to tons and tons of bachelorette parties and ride-on bars being pulled down the street by anything from tractors to fire trucks. this town will keep you busy from morning to night!

(Even the traffic lights in Nashville were celebrating the NFL Draft!, photo by Liz Jeressi)


PS... I ended up walking more than a half-marathon (15.3 miles!) -- PLUS the 5K!!! The hills in Nashville are right up there with San Francisco...so if you go, be prepared with a good pair of sneakers and lots of energy...or just rent a scooter or hop on a barstool trolly and just drink your way around town, lol!

(Downtown Nashville during the NFL Draft and concert, photo by Kristyn Martin)
(One of hundreds of honky tonks in downtown Nashville, photo by Liz Jeressi)
(At the Wildhorse Saloon)