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Eve Hemsley
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The Champions’ Circle – Volunteers of the Year

This year, the Brigance Brigade Foundation recognizes Team Val’s Pals as Volunteers of the Year. This team is a fundraising force captained by Valerie Chase Smith, which raised over $50,000 for the fight against ALS in 2016 alone. Thank you Team Val’s Pals for your tremendous support of ALS families!

The below is written by Larry Smith, husband of Valerie Smith, father of Emma Smith, Vice President of Risk Management Services at MedStar Health, and Brigance Brigade Foundation Board Member.


A few years ago, a team was formed to help support the work of the Brigance Brigade Foundation. The team’s captain, Valerie Chase Smith, was, and still is, its spiritual leader.Trees

In 2012, Valerie was diagnosed with ALS and from the moment of her diagnosis she dedicated her life to supporting her family, nurturing her daughter, building memories for all around her, and doing what she could to help others. When she and her husband, Larry, met O.J. and Chanda there was an instant connection. A bond was formed, a friendship created, and a cause that could allow Valerie to help others suffering from ALS was identified.

VAL’S PALS was chosen as the team’s name because it captured the team’s primary goal, to help People living with ALS, and it incorporated the team leader’s name which was important because it was Val who provided the team with the energy it needed to accomplish its goals. Asking for help was not something Valerie had ever done, so she simply let people know about the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those who needed support.  Team members volunteered rather than being requested to serve. Family members, friends, business leaders who had come to know and love Val, and others asked if they could help.

In October 2015, at the Soiree with O.J.fundraiser held to celebrate the work of the Brigance Brigade and O.J.’s birthday, Val wrote, and her daughter Emma delivered, a brief toast to O.J. and the Brigance Brigade mission. On that night, she said,

“There are many organizations that raise funds to support ALS research and, while we support them because we are confident that a cure is within reach, the Brigance Brigade offers the chance to do something different.

This was the first organization that we had heard about that was helping people with ALS with very basic needs, ramps to get in and out of their homes, wheelchairs, shower chairs and other necessary supplies.

I am blessed with many things that help me deal with this disease. I have health insurance. I have caregivers when my family members have to go to school or work. I have a strong network of friends and family who support me in many ways. But if I lost just one of these supports, my life would be very different and my challenges much greater.  

Unfortunately, there are many people battling this disease who don’t have the resources and support they need. That is why we are so grateful for your presence here tonight in support of furthering our mission. With that, we know that all things are possible. Thank you and May God Bless you!”

This year God called Valerie back home. For those of us she has left behind, life without our Val will never be the same. Our memories and the photos remind us daily of her larger-than-life presence while she was with us. Her smile could outshine the brightest light. The sparkle in her eye would melt your heart. Her boundless enthusiasm and tireless energy could make all things happen.

Although she is not here to help lead us every day, those of us who are part of her team and proud members of Val’s Pals know that it is our job to keep her commitment of helping others alive in any way we can.



To make a contribution in honor of Valerie Smith and Team Val’s Pals, click here. If you list “Team Val’s Pals” in the purpose line of your donation, we will happily notify the team of your support.  Thank you.