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Golf classic a hole in one for charities

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SNOQUALMIE _ The power of competition between two

football coaches can yield great games, but this past weekend, the efforts of

two former coaches produced greenbacks for charity on the greens of the

TPC Snoqualmie Ridge Golf Club.

Former University of Washington football coach Jim Lambright

and former Notre Dame football coach Ara Parseghian co-hosted the second

annual Jim Lambright Medical Foundation Gala and Golf Classic on

Sunday and Monday.

The pair raised more than $340,000 to fight a disease

called Niemann-Pick Type C (NP-C) that affects both coaches' families and

an unknown number of people.

A dinner and auction was held Sunday night. The golf classic

began Monday morning, and despite the rain, approximately 155 people teed off

in Snoqualmie.

Many local and national celebrities participated in the events,

including former Husky coaches Don James, Jim Owens, and Marv

Harshman; Washington State University coach Mike Price and University of

Arizona coach Dick Tomey. A few entertainers were also there, including

Ryan Stiles of "The Drew Carey Show."

"I think it's a wonderful cause and it's nice to see this many people

turn out to be a part of it," Jim Owens said. "It's great that this diverse

group would contribute their time and it's important to have someone

working full time on this [research] who is deeply committed to finding a cure."

Lambright's two sons, Brad and Bart, both in their late 30s, and

Ara Parseghian's grandchildren have the disease and each established a

foundation to raise money for research. Lambright's foundation was

established three years ago.

Currently, there is no cure and no treatment for NP-C.

The disease is a rare and fatal genetic condition that causes

progressive deterioration of the nervous system and has been called the

"children's version of Alzheimer's." Although

the condition is more common in children, adults can also be afflicted.

"The devastation that this disease can cause is

heartbreaking," Lambright said.

People with NP-C are unable to metabolize cholesterol properly, so

it collects in the liver, spleen and brain cells, causing damage to the

nervous system and deterioration of the body.

"Two things about it — it's progressive and it's fatal," Lambright

said, explaining that when his older son was diagnosed with NP-C, the family

was shocked when they were told that there were no treatments or medication

and there was nothing doctors could do to slow it down.

"It creates great drive in you to get answers," he said.

Gradually the patient's IQ also decreases. Lambright said that

since people usually don't frequently test their IQ, that symptom is difficult

to detect.

"One of the things that can happen is that you don't know what's

happening to you or why you're changing," he said. "You can't pay your

bills, and as you go along, you become embarrassed about what you can't

do. Then [you become] angry to protect your pride."

Proceeds from the Gala and Golf Classic, which exceeded last

year's figure of $250,000, will go to the University of Washington School

of Medicine's new neurogenetics division. Dr. Tom Bird, who was part

of the team that discovered the Alzheimer's gene, directs the

division and is searching for a cure.

So far, the most promising lines of research involve genetic therapy

and cholesterol metabolism. NP-C is thought to be related to other

diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and the university's research

could help find a cure for those, as well.

Lambright said researchers have no idea how many people have

NP-C and the adults who have it probably don't know, especially if the

disease is in its early stages.

Because the disease is not widely known, Lambright said he wanted

to choose a special place to hold his charity event. He explained that he

selected Snoqualmie Ridge Golf Club because he loves the Valley, and the

Salish Lodge and Snoqualmie Falls are popular destination spots.

Even though he lives in Marysville, Lambright thinks of

the Valley as home because he said he enjoys the area's natural beauty

and community spirit.

"We would love to make this [his foundation] a community-wide

point of pride," Lambright said.

Anyone who would like to donate time, money or ideas to the

organization should call (800) 426-3660.

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