Meet Legacy Society Member Roger Gleckman
Samuel Gleckman had an upbringing that was based on the philosophy that if you work hard, you will achieve success. He was a strong man who drove a milk truck until he was 60. After moving his family to California in 1963, he continued to work as a delivery man for a catering company. He was the best role model a son could have, and indeed Roger Gleckman used his father's hard work ethic to finish law school and become a successful attorney. But after an incident at a family event in 1988, it was time for both father and son to face the biggest challenge of their lives.
"We didn't recognize what it was at first. My father had trouble opening a door because he just couldn't grasp the door knob," said Roger Gleckman of his father's first experience with ALS. As with many people battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, his father had to contend with not only a devastating disease, but also a medical community that was still very much in the dark regarding the symptoms associated with it. "We took my father to a neurosurgeon and because of the medical community's ignorance of the symptoms, my father's ALS went untreated in the early stages of the disease," Gleckman explained.
Unfortunately, the subtle symptoms of ALS crept up on Samuel Gleckman in an unsuspected manner as with most ALS patients. "He had a gradual onset of symptoms. First he couldn't grasp objects in his hand, then he experienced tingling in his arms. After a year, he lost the use in both of his legs," said Gleckman. Within six weeks of the diagnosis, Gleckman moved his father into a nearby apartment. Soon thereafter his father's health slowly deteriorated, and after a two year struggle with ALS, Samuel Gleckman passed away quietly at a Los Angeles hospital in 1990.
Having spent years helping people as an immigration attorney, the younger Gleckman saw an opportunity to help those fighting with ALS. But unlike many people who donate to The ALS Association by simply writing a check, Gleckman decided to tackle the disease a different way. More specifically, he battles ALS by having established a gift arrangement known as a charitable remainder trust, which allowed him to transfer highly appreciated assets into a trust without incurring the prohibitive capital gain tax. The trust pays income to Mr. Gleckman and his wife for their lives, after which the assets are distributed to The ALS Association.
According to Gleckman, this was the most beneficial and effective way to contribute. "It was recommended by my accountant that I make a gift [to The ALS Association] through my estate plan. This was the best fit based on my financial standing and allows me to contribute a large amount of money in a very effectual way." Gleckman went on to state, "I would definitely urge everybody reading this to make charitable provisions in their financial planning."
Like many people affected by this disease, Gleckman wants his donations to make a difference with regards to medical research. And indeed, since his father's death 16 years ago, much progress has been made with ALS. New evidence shows that some patients are living longer due to clinical management interventions and new medications, scientists are narrowing in on the responsible genes, and there's a renewed sense of hope with advancements in stem cell research. These steps forward are possible because of dedicated people such as Roger Gleckman. "Every dollar counts," as he puts it, in the uphill fight to find a cure for ALS.
Gleckman also has some words of encouragement for anybody recently diagnosed with ALS: "Be positive and make the most out of the time ahead. It's also a good idea to record your thoughts on video and appreciate the time you have left," he said, and went on to modestly explain, "I just want to contribute whatever I can and make the lives of those dealing with ALS better." His enthusiasm and commitment to defeating this disease is unfaltering and an inspiration.