DEL MAR — Mike Ramirez, known to many as “the godfather,” died in April 2012 at the age of 56 from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“He believed that he was chosen; he thought it was his destiny to help find a cure for ALS,” said Greg Sacks, a longtime friend of Ramirez.
Sacks is also the chairman of the Team Godfather Charitable Foundation. The nonprofit will hold Bike 4 Mike on Nov. 3 to honor Ramirez and raise money for ALS.
The ride will begin and end at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, and riders can select a 10, 25 or 50-mile course. For the road leery, there are stationary bike classes during the event.
Sacks said he met Ramirez about 15 years ago, when their sons played Little League baseball together.
“Right away, I could tell this guy had a passion for life and a great sense of community,” Sacks said.
Ramirez was a commercial banker in local and national markets for 35 years. A graduate of Helix High School and later the University of San Diego, he served on nonprofit and foundation boards, including Mercy Hospital Foundation.
How did Ramirez get his nickname?
“Everyone who knew him saw his leadership qualities,” Sacks said. “That’s what made him the godfather of our group.”
Not long after being diagnosed in September of 2009, Ramirez directed his energy toward raising funds and awareness for ALS. In May 2010, Ramirez and his wife, Maureen, along with friends, founded Team Godfather Charitable Foundation.
Sacks noted that the foundation’s board is made up of volunteers. All proceeds from Bike 4 Mike will go to ALS research.
ALS causes the progressive deterioration of nerve cells, resulting in a loss of control over voluntary muscles. About 5,600 Americans are diagnosed with the disease every year. Following a diagnosis, most patients live three to five years, according to the ALS Association. Currently, there’s no cure for the disease.
Sacks noted ALS research has received more attention in recent years. A big reason: Scientists are hopeful that ALS research will also advance the understanding of Alzheimer’s and dementia. In a study two years ago from Northwestern University, researchers said they found the basis of ALS is a malfunctioning protein recycling system in brain and spinal cord neurons. Regulating this protein could prove useful in fighting ALS, as well as other degenerative diseases.
Register for Bike 4 Mike at b4m.als.net