October 26, 2023
On Tuesday night, the Ramapo College women’s volleyball team, current athletes, community and alumni honored one of our former Roadrunners who is battling the unimaginable fight against ALS. Michele (Shelly) McKenna Stellato ’10 was diagnosed with the disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in June of 2020 and since has chosen to spread awareness and raise funds to help find a cure.
Shelly is a 2010 graduate of Ramapo where she was a member of the women’s volleyball program for four seasons, serving as captain in 2009. She played in 96 matches and helped lead the Roadrunners to four straight NJAC Tournament appearances. She was a member of Chi Alpha Sigma Student Athlete Honors Society and the Dean’s List. She graduated with a degree in Communications. Her professional experience is in corporate communications, where she served as the Director of Technology Communications for Prudential Financial until May 2023.
Her ALS Journey told by alum Mackenzie Cahill:
Shelly’s symptoms began sometime in 2019 starting with weakness in her right hand. The first time she remembers having hand issues was after a women’s league volleyball game where she was struggling to serve the ball over the net. She began to struggle to cut food, open containers and navigate a computer. Initially she was told she had carpal tunnel. She continued to pursue a correct diagnosis as her symptoms continued to worsen. A month after she turned 32, Shelly was officially diagnosed with ALS in June of 2020.
After the diagnosis, her and her family learned the harsh realities of ALS. ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that impacts the brain’s ability to send signals to the muscles causing paralysis. Patients rapidly lose their ability to walk, hold things, talk, move and breathe. It is 100% fatal and although it has been around for over 200 years, currently has no cure or effective treatments. Shelly was told to do voice banking as soon as possible and enjoy the time she has. Shelly chooses to fight by raising money and awareness, with an ultimate goal of changing the prognosis of ALS to include some glimmer of hope.
In the months following her diagnosis, Shelly launched Fight ALS Now with the help of her family and friends. Fight ALS Now aims to spread awareness, help pay for Shelly’s medical expenses and raise funding for new, potentially lifesaving treatments. All funding raised for research and awareness by Fight ALS Now goes to Project ALS. Project ALS is the world’s first ALS organization to focus solely on research.
Shelly is the head of communications and a founding member and supporter of Her ALS Story, a group of more than 70 women worldwide who were diagnosed with ALS before the age of 35.
She was named to the Top Women in Communications list by Ragan Communications in the Community Givers category in 2022 for her work in ALS advocacy.
Shelly’s story was documented by PBS in the documentary Matter of Mind: My ALS.
Learn more about Shelly and her story and about ALS by visiting FightALSNow and clicking Watch My Story.
“Once a Roadrunner, Always a Roadrunner!”