Dana Julian: Volunteering Her Time and Talent to Fight ALS


In recognition of National Volunteer Month, we are shining a spotlight on some of our amazing, dedicated volunteers and highlighting the incredible work they are doing to support our mission and make a difference for people living with ALS and their families.

The people who volunteer their time and talent with us come from all over the country and from all different backgrounds, each one with their own “why” they decided to join us. Many have a close family connection to the disease; others join the movement in support of a friend or a neighbor. Still others took part in the Ice Bucket Challenge 10 years ago and have stayed involved ever since.

Dana Julian knows what it’s like to have a family connection to ALS. Her great grandfather died of the disease, and she has always been moved by how her grandfather carried on his father’s legacy through hard work and dedication to his family. “My grandpa was a devout Catholic and philanthropist with a heart of true compassion, generosity, and humanitarianism,” Dana said.

But while Dana’s connection to ALS through her great grandfather is part of her “why,” there are still more twists and turns to the “how.”


Dana fell in love with science and medicine while studying under a superb high school biology teacher. After visiting a cousin at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt), she knew she wanted to study science there. She chose to study neuroscience in part because of her great grandfather and also because another neurological disorder, Charcot Marie Tooth Disease (CMT), is present in her family.

While the main focus of the lab she currently works in is focused on Alzheimer’s Disease, Dana connected with the ALS Association through her research network at Pitt. When she told a mentor she was looking for an opportunity to give back, she was connected with Dr. Christi Kolarcik (Ph.D), an ALS researcher and ALS Association Board of Trustee member. “Dr. Kolarcik suggested I volunteer by joining the Walk to Defeat ALS® Committee,” Dana said, “but she warned me that once I started volunteering with the ALS Association, volunteering would be infectious, and I wouldn’t want to stop. She was so right!”

Dana Julian Walk
Being on the Walk Committee has given me an amazing behind-the-scenes insight into what it takes to put on such a successful and impactful event. The Pittsburgh Walk to Defeat ALS® is a top fundraising Walk, so I consider myself very fortunate to learn from such a high achieving group.”

Dana threw herself into her work on the committee, jumping in with both feet, to learn and contribute all she could. “Dana is never afraid to learn. She stepped in to be the volunteer lead with no prior experience and made it entirely her own. She created systems that worked for her and created amazing lasting relationships in the process,” said ALS Association Development Manager Anna Patsch. “She’s ready to tackle every task we send her way. It’s a major relief to have someone like Dana on your committee—she’s someone you can always rely on to get the job done and to do it with a sense of humor and a smile.”


While Dana’s day job keeps her plenty busy, she hopes that someday she’ll be able to bring her passions together. “I plan to continue volunteering with the ALS Association as a Walk Committee member and hopefully in higher levels of responsibility,” she said. “My career goal is to become a principal scientist working in the ALS field. As I advance in my career, I hope to be involved with ALS Association sponsored research projects and contribute to guiding the direction of ALS research.”

I’ve been so inspired to hear stories of people with ALS living out their diagnosis to the fullest with incredible resiliency and inner strength. I think all of us have a lot to learn about living from ALS heroes.”

“It’s phenomenal to volunteer for the ALS Association for a few reasons: First, the ALS community is so welcoming and lovely. Also, it’s wonderful to contribute meaningfully to the lives of people living with ALS who are so extremely deserving. Lastly, the ALS Association is a great organization in that it holistically addresses the needs of the people with ALS and their loved ones through fundraising, support, advocacy and spreading awareness.”

Thank you Dana for all that you do to support the ALS community, and for allowing us to share your inspiring story this month. And thank you to all of our volunteers who so graciously give their time to help support the ALS community. We could not do what we do without you!


To learn more about how you can get involved in the fight against ALS like Dana, visit our website HERE.

To continue following stories about people living with ALS in the community and learn more about the disease, subscribe to receive our weekly blogs in your inbox HERE or follow us at als.org/blog.


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Submitted by: Wil M. on Wed, 04/10/2024

Would like to know what i can volunteer for in Central New York?

Submitted by: Stephanie O. on Thu, 04/11/2024

Thank you Wil, please fill out the volunteer interest form here https://alsa.tfaforms.net/133 and someone will reach out to you with opportunities in your area!

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