January 8, 2021

Derek Wood’s Legacy Will Lead to ALS Innovation

“We know that we’re here for a greater good”

David Forbes remembers the day, May 3, 2016, when he sat with his great friends, Derek and Tammy Wood, David’s partner Velda Turan, and Dr. Eva Feldman in a Michigan Medicine patient room.

“Dr. Feldman told him he had ALS and the three of us were crying, but Derek looked at all of us and said ‘what’s next, what are we going to do to beat this,” recalled Forbes, a founding member of the ALS Center of Excellence National Advisory Board at Michigan Medicine.

David and Velma Forbes with Tammy and Derek Wood
David Forbes, Velda Turan with Derek and Tammy Wood

Derek never asked ‘why me?’ He was dedicated to his wife, Tammy, their four sons, his faith and he wanted to be part of the answer to stopping ALS.

“Every time we spoke he’d say ‘how are we going to raise money for ALS, what can we do to help Eva,” said Forbes.

That is the genesis of the Derek Wood ALS Innovation Fund.

“Hopefully through what we’re doing, what Eva is doing, and how friends are helping our cause, we can help other people,” said Derek and Tammy Wood in a 2018 video. “We know that we’re here for a greater good. It’s not just wondering why have I been dealt this hand. It’s who else can I help during this journey and that’s what we’re hoping to do.”

Also Read: Wood Family Bonds Together in ALS Battle

Dr. Eva Feldman with Derek Wood
Dr. Eva Feldman with Derek Wood

“Derek and Tammy Wood faced ALS together with a strength and determination that came from their love and devotion to each other and to their sons," said Dr. Feldman, director of the ALS Center of Excellence at Michigan Medicine. "They had hope and a tremendous passion for not only helping Derek during his journey with ALS, but also any person or family battling ALS. Underneath Tammy’s email signature is a quote: 'ALS is not an incurable disease, but an underfunded one.' They were determined to make a difference and they have."

It was Tammy’s idea, along with Forbes and Mike Stein, who is Derek’s close friend and fraternity brother from the University of Southern California (USC), to establish the Derek Wood ALS Innovation Fund at the Michigan Medicine ALS Center of Excellence. This fund will advance cutting-edge research and innovative therapies for patients and families suffering with ALS. 

“Everyone in our business (retail real estate) respected Derek and said he was a pleasure to deal with,” said Forbes with a smile. “It’s been incredible to see the outpouring of support.”

Derek and Tammy made their home in Dallas, but they maintained a multitude of relationships at USC and in his boyhood home in Hawaii.

Derek Wood and Mike Stein
Derek Wood and Mike Stein

“Derek forged great relationships everywhere in his life,” said Stein. “For me, we met 37 years ago and it’s been a sustained, close friendship. He brought people a lot of joy and was great to be around. Everyone Derek knew as a friend or colleague became critically important to him and his family’s support system. His battle with ALS has truly inspired hundreds of people to support this cause.”

"Our family was tremendously happy every day we woke up and saw Derek's beautiful smile and felt his warrior spirit. All the way through the end, he always told us 'I'm not giving up!' The main thing is strong family support; even with a disease like ALS, you can get through anything and teach those around you how precious life is, to not take minutes for granted and never lose faith in God. As a 24/7 wife, mother and caregiver, I would do this all over again for my soulmate and love of my life. No matter the challenge that each day brought, the reward was far greater.” - Tammy Wood

We are deeply grateful to Tammy Wood, Mike Stein and David Forbes for their establishment of the Derek Wood ALS Innovation Fund. Derek Wood, with his infectious smile and uplifting spirit, will always be missed, but never forgotten by Dr. Feldman and members of the Michigan ALS Center of Excellence.