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Kate Linder has appeared on The Young and the Restless for 27 years and was named celebrity spokesperson for The ALS Association in early 2005.

Earlier this month, she went to Washington to lobby for more funds to fight ALS – Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis – for the fifth year in a row. In 2006, Linder won the organization’s All-Star Award for her passionate service to the cause and won their Packman Award in 2007. Kate travels around the country to participate in and encourage other volunteers at the ALS Association’s fundraisers, Walk to D’Feet ALS, and in their fundraising dinners for local chapters.

The ALS Association’s mission is to lead the fight to cure and treat ALS – a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord resulting in muscle weakness and atrophy – through global, cutting-edge research, and to empower people with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and their families to live fuller lives by providing them with compassionate care and support.

Why did you decide to support this organization?

My brother-in-law, Scott, was diagnosed with ALS in 2004, and I had heard about ALS before because Michael Zaslow, who was on Guiding Light, had it. When Scott came down with it, I thought “Oh gosh, I have to get involved and see what I can do here”.

Have you seen improvement and passion towards people who have ALS by this foundation?

Oh yes, they’re definitely passionate. I just came back from Washington DC, because they were having their conference and advocacy day… There are more and more new people coming. There’s a new CEO now, Jane Gilbert, who I was very impressed with, and I think that we’re going to see the association grow by leaps and bounds and the Association will be able to help everyone across the country.

What did you see different in her that’s different than the past CEO?

She really gets it. Her best friend’s husband had ALS, so she knew about ALS and was close to the situation. She was also head of the Red Cross and had managed over 760 chapters across the country, so she’s no stranger to dealing with adversity and problems. She has a passion for ALS because of her involvement with the disease through her friend. She really cares about the patient, chapters, care givers and everyone. She just wants to raise awareness. A lot of that is my job; I’m out there trying to raise awareness. They call it an orphan’s disease because they say that there’re not that many people that have it, but that’s not the case at all. Just as many people come down with ALS as cancer. With a lot of cancers now, they’re treatable – but with ALS, it’s a death sentence and you don’t survive it. So that’s why the numbers are lower.

For someone who has never volunteered with the Association, where’s a good place to start?

Contact the association. There are lots of different chapters in different states. If you can’t find a chapter, one could contact the association and then the association would put them in touch.

What was the first job you did when you first became a volunteer for the Association?

They have walks, called the Walk to Defeat ALS. I’ve appeared at lots of the walks to raise money, and I shot a PSA with my brother-n-law …right in the beginning I did that. I also narrated a video that they have as well. I really just did what I could and went to as many places as I could.

Where you raised to give back?

Well, I’ve always given back. I saw my parents giving back and donating every since I was a little girl. But, I’ve been on the Young and the Restless for some time; I’ve just had my 27th year. It’s so amazing…here I am doing what I’ve always wanted to do. It’s not only my privilege, but it’s my duty to give back. I feel so fortunate and if I can give back and help people, then that’s what I’m going to do. I’m so grateful to Young and the Restless, because they’ve afforded me the opportunity to be able to do this. Hopefully people will listen to me about ALS.

Do think that people in Hollywood are doing enough to raise awareness about ALS?

No, I don’t. You say ALS and people will look at you like what’s that. It’s a horrific disease; you are trapped in your own body. Can you imagine that your mind works perfectly? My brother-in-law’s brain is probably better than mine. He knows what’s going on, but he’s lying in a bed and can’t move anything. He can blink his eyes maybe and communicate by that. It’s horrific. I can’t tell you how bad it is. I know that there will be a cure found. It’s just a matter of when. There will be a cure, it’s just that we have to make it happen faster. It’s unbelievable. It attacks the nerve cells and then attacks its way through the brain and spinal cord, so when those cells die the muscle control and the movement dies with them. The person is totally paralyzed, but the mind is just as sharp and alert as it ever was. The average life span is 2-5 years, but some people do live longer and I have met some that have.

What would you like to see change about the world when it comes to charity work?

If everyone could help and gave a little time, times are tough for everybody. It’s a bad time right now and the charities are really hurting. They are totally suffering, because people have to cut down on things, and maybe people that gave before feel like they can’t do it, they don’t have the money. If every person gave a dollar, that would be a lot of money. If people can’t give money, at least volunteer, that would be so helpful.

Will any of your upcoming work reflect your work you have done with the ALS Association, maybe a book or movie something?

I’m always looking for that and that would be great. There’s nothing right now, but I think that would be just fabulous.

In being named celebrity spokesperson for the ALS Association, have you been able to make a lot more progress in raising awareness? Do you feel like the position appointed to you has really helped you do more with the Association?

I’ve had people come up to me and thank me. So many people came up to me in the last couple of days in Washington, DC and thanked me for coming and being there, and they feel I put a face to the disease. If I can help in that manner then I am so grateful, because I will do anything that I can to try and get awareness out that this is not a rare thing. Every day an average of 15 people are diagnosed. That’s 5,600 people a year, and as many as 30,000 American people are affected right now.

Can people volunteer as a care person?

Yes, Congress has provided money for the Respit Care Act and for the registry. We wanted $5 million – they’ve given several million. So they know how many men and women get the disease and what their occupation was.

What is the last thought you want to leave with people regarding ALS?

Andrew Sweetson made a statement that has always stuck with me. I have to give him credit. “It doesn’t matter how many breaths you take in this lifetime, but what you do with them.” That is how I feel and that’s what I’m trying to do. A lot of people that have ALS are out there trying to make a difference, their life span may be shorter, but they are doing something with what they have. You have to look at yourself and say what can I do to help.

There was a gentleman who lost his wife who had ALS, he has two young kids and when they were going through it he said his neighborhood organized help. He kept a list of everything he needed done. When people came up to him and asked what they could do, he would go down his list. One of his neighbors organized a dinner for them every night. All the families in the neighborhood made a little extra dinner every night so his family could have a home cooked meal every night. Little things like that go a long way.

Look To The Stars would like to thank Kate Linder for taking the time to talk to us. To learn more about the ALS Association, visit their website.

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