Once a month, Clayton Hollingsworth dons his grandfather Billy Anderson’s cowboy boots.
“Growing up, I saw this tall, good-looking man who was strong,” he said. “He was somebody I truly looked up to, and to see him deteriorate so quickly was disturbing.”
Anderson deteriorated because of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. His struggles with the diseases inspired Hollingsworth and his wife, Katie — both of whom are Highland Park High School graduates — to launch Dining Dallas, a monthly series of fundraisers at restaurants.
“I’m always reminded of walking in his shoes,” Clayton said. “It keeps me grounded. I’ve had these shoes since sixth grade, but I only wear them for ALS events because they mean so much to me.”
For a suggested contribution of $5, “the restaurant provides free appetizers and happy hour specials,” Katie said. “The majority of restaurants also donate 10 percent of the proceeds to the ALS Association.” The events have been held at restaurants such as Eddie V’s, Bob’s Steak and Chop House, and Ocean Prime.
The goals of Dining Dallas include creating an exciting social scene, spreading awareness of the neurodegenerative disease, and raising money for designated charities, which vary at each event.
“We give to ALS-TDI for research. We give to individuals who are affected by the disease. We give to the ALS Association to provide health care,” said Katie, an assistant director of admissions at Hockaday. “We want the money to go to where we see a need.”
Many people who are diagnosed with ALS are not aware of or prepared for the disease’s financial burden. This is something the Hollingsworths hope to offset.
“While I do believe in fundraising for a cure, I also know first-hand how [ALS] affects a victim’s life day by day,” said Clayton, the director of development at Prince of Peace Christian School. “I want to know how I can help their lives today. Because every day is one step closer to the inevitable.”
Emily Maynard, whose aunt and mother both died of ALS, has been one of Dining Dallas’ beneficiaries.
“They donated all of the money to help with my mom,” Maynard said. “I think that the events are very beneficial to ALS, especially getting the word out and educating and awareness. I am so glad that they do it.”
Channel 8 sports anchor Dale Hansen, a friend of Clayton’s uncle, has lent his familiar face to the cause by appearing at Dining Dallas events.
“It’s one of the most debilitating, egregious diseases that we have,” Hansen said. “There are no good diseases, but I think this is absolutely one of the worst ones.
“And for some strange reason, nobody seems to really care. All I want to try and do is, not so much raise money in the expectation to find a cure, but to shine a light on a problem I think people have ignored for too long.”