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'Walk to Defeat ALS' brings together familes, friends and caregivers

The event is meant to raise awareness of ALS, a disease that weakens muscles and impacts a person's ability to move. Its cause is unknown.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — An event in North Knoxville brought together friends, family and caregivers for a special event meant to raise awareness about a disease that affects thousands of people across the world.

It was called the Walk to Defeat ALS, and Knoxville's event was one of many across the U.S. It started at 10 a.m. in Adair Park and brought several different groups, many of which were walking to support specific people.

"People have been just so excited to get back together and to just gather," said Anne Rawlins, the managing director of development for the ALS Association. "It's like a big support group."

The event also helped them raise money for support groups, clinics and treatments. Organizers said that money raised during the walk went director to partners with the program.

ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It's a disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, weakening the connection they have with the muscular system in a person's body. As a result, muscles do not get the nourishment they need to stay healthy and people may lose the ability to control them.

Specifically, ALS affects motor neurons in a person's body. As those neurons die, the brain effectively loses its ability to initiate and control movement, according to the ALS Association. Over time, people can also lose the ability to speak, eat, move or breathe.

For around 90% of all cases, there's no known family history of the disease or the presence of a genetic mutation. In essence, the cause of ALS is unknown.

However, as more research is conducted about ALS, there are now four drugs approved to treat it: Riluzole, Nuedexta, Radicava and Tiglutik.

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