John Driskell Hopkins is giving an update on his ongoing battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as ALS. The Zac Brown Band member continues to perform and tour, in spite of battling the degenerative disease.
“I don’t feel a lot different than I did last year. I can tell that some things are continuing to slow down,” Hopkins tells People. “My voice is being affected and that’s something that I really notice as a singer, but I’m still playing and I’m still performing and still singing.”
Hopkins may be slowly losing his mobility, but his sense of humor remains intact, even when talking about ALS.
“I was never a very good dancer, so that’s not a big deal,” he says, adding that he is not able to perform during Zac Brown Band’s live shows as he once did. “But I do miss jumping on stage and being able to run around and act a foo. So that part, it would be lovely to get some of that back, but that’s not really in the ALS cards; you don’t really get things back. So we’re trying to do everything we can to maintain and take it day by day.”
Not one to be idle, after his devastating diagnosis, Hopkins got to work. The 52-year-old launched his Hop On A Cure foundation, raising more than $200,000 at a recent benefit concert, following a baseball game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Milwaukee Brewers.
Thank you Cincinnati 💙
We're blown away by the response and overwhelming support we received.
Over 45K fans … the most @reds stadium has EVER SEEN BEFORE.
ALS is not incurable, it's underfunded. More than $200K raised will go to research we believe will make a difference. pic.twitter.com/M943teWIdZ
— HopOnACure (@HopOnACure) June 4, 2023
“We need more weekends like that,” Hopkins says. “We need more funding to fight ALS. We’ve been saying for a long time that ALS is not incurable. ALS is underfunded. So we really need to continue to raise money and get it out the door.”
Hopkins found out at the end of 2021 that he had ALS. It was an understandably devastating diagnosis for him to receive, but in his true optimistic fashion, the 52-year-old immediately got to work.
“It’s fulfilling to know that we’re inspiring people,” Hopkins says. “It’s the kind of disease where you’re shooting in the dark and we need to make it livable, the way that we’ve made HIV livable. It’s not cured, but if someone gets HIV today, they live a normal life.”
“They have the medications to do that, and we need to do that for motor neuron disease so that people don’t become these living statues and have their bodies shut down and just not be able to function,” he adds.
Hopkins not only wants to be around for his Zac Brown Band family, but for his three children and his wife, Jennifer, who has championed the cause of helping fund a cure for ALS.
“She is an incredible force of nature and she is doing so much of this work every day with a small team of incredible people,” Hopkins boasts. “That’s my motivation is to be there for them.”
Hopkins began having ALS symptoms for a couple of years before he was ever diagnosed.
“I think it was somewhere around the middle of 2019, I started noticing I couldn’t double-time as quickly,” Hopkins recalled to CBS News. “I could still do it, but I was starting to get angry at my right hand … I remember sitting on the bus, and talking to the guys, and saying, ‘Something’s wrong with my hand.’”
The multi-instrumentalist started Hop on a Cure because of his notoriety as part of one of country music’s most successful bands, something he realized could make a big impact on ALS research.
“I’m not a scientist. I’m not gonna be the one with the test tubes and the research,” Hopkins says. “I’m someone who has a platform that can explain, ‘I can’t play guitar like I used to. I might not be able to sing one day.’ And if I have an opportunity to spread the word that way, then that’s my responsibility.”
For more information on Hop on a Cure, or to make a donation, visit HoponaCure.org.