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Jeter, Mattingly attend Lou Gehrig Benefit dinner for ALS

NEW YORK -- Just 12 days after Commissioner Bud Selig presented an engraved silver ice bucket to Pete Frates' family during the World Series in Kansas City as recognition for the former Boston College player's inspiring battle with ALS, Derek Jeter presented two more of them on Tuesday night to two other ALS-stricken co-founders of the Ice Bucket Challenge viral movement.

Jeter was a special guest at the 20th annual Lou Gehrig Sports Awards Benefit dinner at the Marriott Marquis, where about $1 million was raised for the ALS Association Greater New York chapter to help find a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, five-time All-Star Keith Hernandez and former Pittsburgh Steelers great Franco Harris were honored during the ceremony, and Jeter presented the two silver ice buckets to Pat Quinn and Anthony Senerchia Jr.

"Want to put some water in it?" Jeter asked them, delighting a capacity crowd.

The momentum for the fight to end ALS seems unstoppable in 2014, and that is a truly welcomed reality. Game 2 of this World Series was dedicated to the theme of ALS awareness, following on the heels of an Ice Bucket Challenge that has raised more than $100 million in the U.S. and -- according to Frates' father, John -- an estimated half-billion worldwide.

"To see the emotion and the things that we see with the people that are affected by the disease, I can't agree more that we've got to continue on to stamp this out, to strike it out," Mattingly said.

The Ice Bucket Challenge began when Senerchia's wife, Jeanette, and Chris Kennedy (his wife is Jeanette's cousin) first posted self-drenching videos. Anthony Senerchia has had ALS for a dozen years. Quinn, who was diagnosed last year with ALS, turned it into a social-media movement along with his friend, Frates, who had a bucket of icewater dumped on him as he sat in his wheelchair in left field at his beloved Fenway Park. The whole thing took off, with Jeter and seemingly everyone involved.

"First I'd like to thank the Senerchias for getting this thing really going," Quinn said. "Without their community, we would have never picked up on it, and we're all very lucky for that. I'd like to thank everyone that helped 'Quinn for the Win' get as big as it is now. Pete couldn't make it tonight, but also without him and his network, this thing would have never gotten as big as it is.

"The Ice Bucket Challenge really changed the game, but you can't stop there. We created momentum and now we have to build on it, so please keep supporting."

ALS attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, leading to weakness and eventual paralysis of all voluntary muscles, including those used for breathing and swallowing. There is no cure or effective treatment for ALS, and an estimated 30,000 people in the U.S. have the disease.

Yankees general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal and Steiner Sports presented a $30,000 check to ALS Greater New York for proceeds from an earlier auction of No. 4 Gehrig jerseys.

Jeter's mere appearance at the event drove ALS donation numbers high. In fact, the retired Yankees shortstop offered a package of his own game-used memorabilia and someone a few tables away from him won it with a $36,000 bid. Shortly afterward, the person who most recently preceded Jeter as Yankees captain spoke volumes for everyone in the room.

"I'd like to congratulate Derek on his career," Mattingly said. "He's someone that we all feel like he's part of ours, he's one of us, and over his whole career, we've gotten a chance to see him as a young player, and you feel like he's just one of your kids. The things he's been able to accomplish and the way he has handled himself, you talk about champions, Derek Jeter is that guy for me."

Mattingly and Hernandez were each invited as honorees by Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, a co-chair of the Lou Gehrig Sports Awards Benefit. Both recipients said their connection to Gehrig as great former New York first basemen was a strong bond, apt for the occasion.

Hernandez, now a Mets SNY analyst, was visibly humbled by the presence of multiple people who are afflicted with ALS -- and by the strong families who were there with them.

"When you come to an event like this it makes you pause and really count your blessings, that I have my health and that I can do something to make a difference in whatever small way," Hernandez said. "It makes me feel good inside that there are people out there who care and are putting forth effort to put an end to this dreaded disease."

Harris, who won the first of his four Super Bowl rings 40 years ago this season, said his former Penn State coach Joe Paterno told him to "make a difference." They are words he always remembers and he told the audience it has become contagious.

"When you saw that challenge, America, you responded," Harris said. "You always do in times of need. Times like this bring about the best in America. That was a challenge, and we like challenges. When you hear the word 'challenge,' you always like to think, 'Bring it on.'

"What happened this past year was unique. Many things were tried before, but this time it was magical. The potential to beat this disease has increased significantly."

The Jacob K. Javits Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to BNY Mellon and accepted by Gerald Hassell, its chairman and CEO.

Eddie Redmayne, who plays ALS-stricken physicist Stephen Hawking in the new movie, "The Theory of Everything," wanted to be involved in the benefit and had a moving encounter before the dinner with Kevin Thompson, a karate legend who is now fighting ALS.

"You are here for a reason," Thompson told the crowd. "You can't quit until the job is done. Not tomorrow, right now. People are dying."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of Read and join other baseball fans on his community blog.