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March 16, 2012

Ex-Mass. Gov. with ALS raising funds for research

BOSTON — Former Republican governors Paul Cellucci and William Weld, once partners in running state government, have joined forces again — this time to raise money for research into ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease.

Cellucci, 63, disclosed in January 2010 that he had been diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The disease attacks the brain and spine, and has no cure.

On Thursday, he appeared at a Boston fundraiser to help announce a $500,000 gift from the biopharmaceutical firm Biogen Idec to the UMass/ALS Champion Fund. Cellucci spearheaded creation of the fund, boosting researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester as they work to find a treatment for the disease.

Cellucci, who uses a wheelchair, said he still feels good overall.

"I'm weak in my arms and legs, but everything else is working fine," he said. "I'm fortunate to have a slow case. I hope it stays that way."

At his side was Weld, who hosted the fundraiser and jokingly introduced Cellucci as the "hind legs on the so-called Weld-Cellucci kangaroo ticket. The hind legs were stronger than the front legs."

Cellucci was Weld's lieutenant governor from 1991 until 1997, when he became acting governor upon Weld's resignation. Cellucci was elected governor in 1998 and served until 2000, when he resigned to become U.S. Ambassador to Canada.

The battle to find a cure for ALS is truly a nonpartisan cause, Cellucci said, bringing together all of the state's past and present chief executives. Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, former Republican governors Mitt Romney and Jane Swift, and former Democratic Gov. Michael Dukakis all "unhesitatingly" signed on as honorary chairs of the fund.

Swift also attended the fundraiser, as did U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray, former state Treasurer Joseph Malone and former House Speaker Thomas Finneran, among others.

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