Owner of Local Supermarkets Gives $265,000 to ALS Support Group



January 14, 2011
By Kevin Penton

John Geiger loves to ski, to feel the rush as gravity takes him down the hill.

But since he was diagnosed in October 2009 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, Geiger has found it increasingly difficult to enjoy one of his favorite pastimes.

Talking with others also diagnosed with the disease at the Joan Dancy & PALS (People with ALS) Support Group has helped the Ocean Township resident deal with what can be an overwhelming situation, he said.

“It’s comforting to have others to talk with who are going through the same thing as you,” said Geiger, 53, who has retired from his job as a specialist for a Wall Street firm.

Geiger and Bob Roddy, an Aberdeen resident also diagnosed with ALS, were on hand Friday as Saker ShopRite President and CEO Richard Saker presented a $265,000 check to the support group.

In these difficult economic times, it is incredible that the contribution amount from Saker ShopRite has increased every year since 2006, when the nonprofit was founded, said its executive director, Sean Magovern. Last year, the contribution was $207,000, he said.

“I am so overwhelmed,” said Magovern, who’s father’s fiancee was the organization’s namesake. Dancy died in 2006.

The nonprofit, which has an annual operating budget of about $700,000, uses the funding to assist ALS patients in Monmouth and Ocean counties in ways such as home visits by its staff of two nurses, a medical equipment loan program and educational seminars.

ALS affects nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain, causing motor neurons to degenerate and eventually die. As their bodies progressively deteriorate, the majority of ALS patients remain sharp. There is no known cure for the disease, which provides an average life expectancy of two to five years.

Saker, who lost an uncle to the disease, said he supports the nonprofit because of the important work it does in the community.

“There is really not the level of support for it like there is for other diseases,” said Saker, who owns 27 ShopRites in the region. “Now I’m in a position where I can help.”

The money is raised in part by contributions by shoppers at the cash register, who have the option of donating either $1 or $4. If they contribute $4, or more, Saker matches the amount.

On Feb. 5, the group will hold its annual plunge into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Manasquan as a way to raise funds, Magovern said.

I can’t emphasize how much it means that this is coming from the community to their neighbors,” Magovern said. “Especially in a downturn economy.”