When I think of the two most insidious, non-cancer diseases facing humans that are the highest on my personal wish-list for cures, it's ALS and Alzheimer's disease.

These slow-progressing, body- and mind-stealing diseases not only take down its victims but often times their caregivers, who also suffer on a daily basis as they do all they can to ease the burdens of their loved ones.

ALS has been getting much-deserved attention the last few weeks with the Ice Bucket Challenge. (If you haven't heard of it, your head has been in a bucket.)

But on a whole different level, a very local one, the Race for The ARK, the largest annual fundraiser for The ARK, the Summerville-based Alzheimer's Family Support Services, marks its 15th year on Saturday.

If you aren't familiar with The ARK, it a local nonprofit outreach program providing comprehensive support services to families dealing with Alzheimer's or related dementia.

"We care as much about the caregiver as the person who has the disease," says Cheryl Moniz, development director for The ARK.

The event starts with a 5K run and walk at 7:45 a.m. Saturday at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, 206 Central Ave., in Summerville, and continues with a 1-mile fun run at 8:45 a.m.

Many runners in recent years have counted the Race for The ARK as the unofficial kick-off of the fall racing season as the race draws 400 to 500 participants and historically posts some relatively competitive times.

Despite torrential rainfall last year in the hours leading up to the start, the event drew 374 finishers for the 5K.

To help bolster those numbers as 5Ks fill the calendar, The ARK has been building its team challenges. This year's Corporate Challenge, which asks company's to pay $350 for a five-person team to run, has a record 25 signed up. Moniz adds she expects that the Lowcountry Youth Team Challenge, featuring youth and high school teams, will also draw a record seven or eight teams.

"It's really exciting to see this support grow for us," says Moniz.

Pre-registration and packet pickup is noon-6 p.m. Friday at St. Luke's Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall. Race-day registration and packet pickup will be 6:30-7:30 a.m. Saturday.

TheARKofSC.org

Ping pong, anyone?

Or make that table tennis.

The Hanahan Table Tennis Training Center (yep, that's right) will host the South Carolina State Championship for table tennis on Sunday at the Hanahan Gym at 1255 Yeamans Hall Road.

The tournament will give prize money to top finishers.

Players must have proof of full-time residency in South Carolina (driver's license) or, if military, be stationed in South Carolina. Full-time students in the Palmetto State are eligible.

Entry fees are $15-$20, but check the website for updates on registration.

http://tthanahan.com/scchamps.htm

Growler Invitational

While the Palmetto Masters Swim Team's inaugural Growler Invitational will likely meet its registration caps by today, it points to the fact that swimming is growing in popularity in the Charleston area.

The Growler, to be held at LTP Swim Club in Mount Pleasant, will start Friday afternoon with mile races and conclude Sunday. Weekend racing will take place roughly 8 a.m.-1 p.m. each day.

Teams of swimmers will be coming in from Hilton Head Island, Beaufort and Myrtle Beach for this swim meet for all adult ages, says Palmetto Masters Vice President Jennifer Cranny.

"There will be people in their 80s competing in these races," says Cranny.

Other events that have established themselves in the Charleston area are the Lowcountry Splash, open water swims of 2.4 and 5 miles typically held in late spring, and the 12-mile Swim Around Charleston, set for Sept. 21. One event, Sharkfest Charleston on Aug. 31 organized by California-based Enviro-Sports was postponed until 2015.

Cranny says that Palmetto Masters has grown from about 60 regulars to 140 within the last few years and that swimmers continue to organize for open water swims at Folly Beach and the Ashley River, near the new kayak pier under the North Bridge.

http://www.palmettomasters.org/w/index.cfm

Go Miller Go

After Academic Magnet High School senior Emma Coen found out about spinal muscular atrophy, or SMA, she decided to do something about it by organizing a 5K "walk-n-roll," the Go Miller Go 5K.

According to the National Institutes of Health, spinal muscular atrophy belongs to a group of hereditary diseases that causes weakness and wasting of the voluntary muscles in the arms and legs of infants and children.

There is no cure for SMA. The prognosis is poor for babies with SMA Type I, with most dying within the first two years of life. Treatment of the disorder consists of managing the symptoms and preventing complications.

Coen says all proceeds from the Go Miller Go 5K, named for a local 3-year-old boy with the disorder who plans to participate in the event, will be donated to fund SMA gene replacement research,

Go Miller Go will be 8:15 a.m. Saturday at James Island County Park. The fee is $35 for adults, $20 for youth, and free for children with SMA or are age 5 and under.

www.fsma.org/gomillergo

Reach David Quick at 937-5516.