Tonight just before the Branford’s boys’ basketball team takes on Shelton at home (7 p.m.), Branford resident Paul Sturgess, former volunteer basketball coach will be honored for his commitment to the team and for his strength to endure an ongoing battle with ALS, a neuromuscular disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
According to the New Haven Register, members of those Housatonic League title teams will also be honored on Friday in a ceremony that will begin at about 6:45 p.m. as well.
Sturgess, the owner of V.F. McNeil Insurance here in Branford, has been battling ALS in recent years. As the Register put it, he is “currently in the fight of his life.”
Sturgess recently participated in the 15th Annual Hammerfest Triathlon, held on September 18, 2011. Hammerfest benefits the Myelin Project, an organization hat supports research in the area of Adrenoleukodystrophy, also known as ALD, a disease similar to ALS. Hammerfest was founded in support of Branford resident Brian Kelley who has been battling ALD for more than two decades.
Pauline Handy of V.F. McNeil shared some details of Sturgess’ participation in this year’s Hammerfest – an event that was particularly challenging for her boss given that his ALS symptoms were aggravated the morning of the race. Sturgess told Handy, “When I was doing the backstroke on my way out, I just kept looking up at the crystal clear blue sky and thinking about how lucky we were to have such nice weather and about how courageous Brian is. It made me strong and literally made me smile while I was swimming.”
Sturgess finished the triathlon surrounded by family including Nicole Hall who recently became his wife, and friends.
The Register notes that Sturgess was a “former standout basketball and tennis player at Branford” when he attended school there in the late 1970s. He was a fellow basketball player of current Branford High School Head Coach and Athletic Director Jake Palluzzi.
Donations made at the door of tonight’s game will support the Connecticut Chapter of ALS and this April, the Paul Sturgess ALS Challenge will be held; stay tuned for details.