BOCA RATON, Fla. — The Boca Woods Country Club is a neighborhood of about 600 homes. Many of the neighbors said their best friends are just doors away and that Neil Herbst is the one who recruited them to move in.
Herbst has long embraced that special spark. Herbst met the owner of the Yankees, George Steinbrenner, when he was 16 and working in a diner.
"Steinbrenner came to me asked me if I want to be a New York Yankee bat boy," Herbst explained. "I was blown away, floored."
All of these years later, Herbst was honored at a Yankees game for his fight, as he feels connected to a different man of Yankee fame: Lou Gehrig.
"When you're sick, it's amazing how people will reach out," Herbst said.
Last year, Herbst learned he has ALS, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, just like Gehrig did. The disease progressively attacks muscle control, but leaves the brain sharp. The disease is a lot to comprehend.
"'How am I gonna walk with a cane?' And then it goes, 'How am I gonna walk with a walker?" he said. "It passed on these emotions, because you know that you want to be around for your loved ones."
The disease affects maybe 15,000 people nationwide at any given time, which is why it surprised everyone to learn there were three people in the same community battling the disease.
Dr. Delores Torti is one of them. She said the disease attacks each person's body differently.
"Now I'm having trouble with my hands, with my arms, and I can't get any higher than that," she explained.
Torti is a wife and mother who was diagnosed five years ago.
"I had a very active life," she said. "I worked for 42 years as a nurse, as a professor of nursing. I've been married for 61 years, to the same man."
The third neighbor is Stephanie Meiselman, whose condition is more advanced. Through her caregiver, she expressed her gratitude to neighbors and their efforts to help all three.
Tom Paradise is one of those neighbors who is helping to organize a golf tournament to benefit ALS research.
"It's the right thing to do," he said. "It gives life and energy to the patients who are fighting it."
Herbst explained the whole fight is about spending more time with children, grandchildren and friends.
"When I was diagnosed, it was like, 'What? I have what?' And then you hear about your life sentences three or five years and you're dead," he said. "Well, I'm not gonna. That's not gonna happen to me. I have too much to live for."
The golf tournament is scheduled for Oct. 3. It will raise money for the ALS Therapy Development Institute. Visit https://fundraise.als.net/BOCAWOODS to learn how to sponsor the tournament. The ALS TDI tax identification number is #04-3462719.