ROCKAWAY – Instead of heading home to rest after Morris Hills’ grueling morning practice on Monday, Kyle Gaeb allowed a younger teammate to drench him with icy water. Why? For his neighbor in Rockaway Township, who has been battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis for years.
Gaeb and the seniors on the Scarlet Knights football team met the ALS ice bucket challenge this morning, with a little help from the underclassmen. So did the Morris Hills coaching staff, soaked by the seniors.
Launched about three weeks ago, the challenge is a fundraiser for the ALS Association. Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative condition which affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The degeneration leads to a loss of voluntary muscle control, and eventually, death.
More than 5,600 people are diagnosed with ALS each year, an average of 15 per day. As many as 30,000 Americans are currently affected by the disease.
“People don’t understand what it does, and how it affects people,” said Gaeb, a senior defensive back and wide receiver, who organized the football team’s effort along with classmate Bobby Sugot.
“It’s important to get people talking.”
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The Scarlet Knights girls soccer team took the challenge on Friday — recording a video of their “domino-effect buckets,” according to junior co-captain Casarah Morales — then nominated football and boys soccer — and the girls soccer team at archrival and sister school Morris Knolls. The football team did the same, nominating the Golden Eagles seniors and coaches.
Morris Hills and Morris Knolls will meet in their season-opening football game on Sept. 12.
The Scarlet Knights volleyball team also took the challenge on Monday. The boys soccer captains were going to discuss it with their teammates at practice.
“It built a bond,” said Sugot, who has now met the ice bucket challenge three times. “We have a great set coaches and players here, and it’s something good for the community. It brings fun to us, to the community, and is a chance to bond with Morris Knolls in a way.”
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Spread primarily via social media, each participant is encouraged to nominate others to take the challenge — or make a donation to the ALS Association. Since the challenge began on July 29, the Association has received $15.6 million in donations compared to $1.8 million during the same time period last year. The Association has attracted more than 307,000 new donors, according to its website.
The funds will be used to support research, provide support and care to people with ALS, and for outreach. The Association supports 98 active projects worldwide, and recently announced $3.5 million in funding for 21 new projects.
Scarlet Knights head football coach Mike Sabo said his staff will make a donation to the ALS Association. Morales encouraged her teammates to “each donate a few dollars, because it adds up as a program.”
Added Morales, “It’s another way to not only bring us together as a community, it’s about helping people. We’re just kids, but we’re making a big difference.”
Staff Writer Jane Havsy: 973-428-6682; email@example.com; www.dailyrecord.com/writerjane/
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