Thursday, January 15, 2009

Downtown Mannequin Torsos Symbolic Of Disease

Downtown Mannequin Torsos Symbolic Of Disease

By JOHN W. ALLMAN The Tampa Tribune
Published: January 15, 2009
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TAMPA - Most people know the name, but not the disease.
"Piece by Piece," a new campaign by the ALS Association Florida Chapter, hopes to change that by increasing public awareness of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease.
The campaign's official debut is today at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park in downtown Tampa.
Across the grass, volunteers worked in early morning cold to set up 150 mannequin torsos. Each torso bears a black T-shirt. Some have names of Lou Gehrig's patients, both those still living and some who have died.
The display will be open to the public until 6 p.m.
The mannequin bodies have no arms or legs, which is symbolic of the devastating impact of the disease, said Kamden Kuhn, spokeswoman for the Florida chapter.
Lou Gehrig's is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes victims to become completely paralyzed. The disease is gradual, however, and can slowly take away the ability to walk, speak and, finally, breathe.
"There are cancer survivors. There are heart attack survivors. There is no such thing as an ALS survivor," said Kuhn, who lost her grandfather to the disease prior to joining the association. "That's why we think this needs a lot of attention."
The "Piece by Piece" campaign was conceived by Tampa advertising agency Dunn & Co. It will travel throughout Florida this year with stops in seven cities.
The mannequins will be on display in Tampa through February. They will be in Lykes Gaslight Square Park next Thursday and Centennial Park in Ybor City on Saturday, Jan. 31.
The ALS Association Florida Chapter is accepting donations for research and patient care. People wishing to give money can have the name of a loved one put on a T-shirt used in the display.
Volunteers will be on hand at each stop of the campaign to provide information.
Steve Franks' name is on a T-shirt.
The Pinellas Park resident, diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's in 2003, considers himself "one of the lucky ones."
Most people die within five years of being diagnosed, Franks said. The disease has limited his ability to walk for long stretches, and affected his speech, but he is still able to drive. Franks, 50, is in charge of transporting the mannequins to each city during the campaign.
"My biggest frustration is that people don't know what ALS is and what it's doing to the people who have it," he said Thursday morning. "That's why I want to be part of this. It's going to educate so many people."
For More Information:To learn more about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, and the "Piece by Piece" campaign, go to:
To donate to the ALS Association Florida Chapter and sponsor a T-shirt in the campaign, call 888-257-1717, ext. 107.

Reporter John W. Allman can be reached at or (813) 259-7915.

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