After releasing 2010's Painted Hills under his solo project of the same name, Josh Schwartz, former guitarist of iconic indie folk rock act Beachwood Sparks, received praise for the record; one reviewer called it “the soundtrack to the best possible hippie dream.”
Shortly after, he also received news that he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's disease, which degenerates motor neurons that control voluntary movements and muscle power.
Now 42, Schwartz has been battling the disease for close to four years. It affects muscles all over the body, making everything from playing music to eating and speaking a challenge. Now, in 2014, the daily struggle has taken its toll.
“We've had enough. We're just ready,” says Allison Betzler, longtime girlfriend of the prolific musician.
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In June, Betzler created an online campaign to raise money for Schwartz to receive stem cell therapy, which would help slow the progression of the disease and, hopefully, repair damage to already atrophied muscles.
The initial treatment is extremely costly — the couple is aiming to raise $25,000 for the first round, and Schwartz would need to return “at least once a year forever.” They are also not FDA-approved, and therefore unavailable in the United States. Schwartz will need to travel to Stem Cell of America, a therapy center located in Mexico, to receive medical attention.
“If my sister didn't know people who had done it, I would be skeptical,” Betzler says of stem cell therapy, which does not involve surgery and lasts less than an hour per session. But, she has faith: “These are lifesaving, miracle treatments.”
With a little more than 100 days left in the fundraiser, supporters (who are overwhelmingly fans of Schwartz's musical contributions) have pledged nearly $15,000. There is a lot on the line considering the couple cannot afford the costly treatments alone, but Betzler is hopeful that Schwartz's fans will help them reach their goal.
“I don't expect a miracle, I just want something to help him,” she says. “I just want him to be able to make music again.”
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