Cellucci announced in January that he has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's Disease. The initiative, called the UMass ALS Champion Fund, will help support the laboratory of Robert H. Brown Jr., one of the world's leading minds looking into a cure.
"I am proud to continue my career in public service by leading the UMass ALS Champion Fund efforts," Cellucci said. "A champion helps to deliver great victories, and Dr. Brown is a true champion of ALS research. But, victories are a team effort. Dr. Brown and his colleagues at UMass Medical School need our support."
According to the ALS Association's website, the disease most commonly strikes between the ages of 40 and 70, and as many as 30,000 Americans have it at a given time.
Gov. Deval Patrick declared Thursday as "Paul Cellucci/ALS Champion Day" in Massachusetts, and Boston mayor Thomas Menino declared the day as "Champion Day" in Boston.
Cellucci became acting governor in 1997 and was elected governor in '98, holding the post until 2001, when president George W. Bush named him U.S. ambassador to Canada.
For more information on the UMass ALS Champion Fund visit www.UMassALS.com.