Curt and Shonda Schilling are well known for their extraordinary commitment to two organizations: The ALS Association, which promotes awareness of and supports the search for a cure for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (aka Lou Gehrig’s disease), and the SHADE Foundation of America, which promotes awareness and prevention of skin cancer.
The couple began working for The ALS Association while Curt was with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1992. They were seeking a way to give back to the community – because they felt so fortunate. The Phillies sponsored an event about ALS for its players and the Schillings attended.
“Having a background in TV and knowing how to promote things, I went to the event because I thought there were ways I could help,” Shonda says. “But I couldn’t help because I didn’t understand this disease.”
So the Schillings had dinner with an ALS sufferer and were soon convinced that they could – and had to – help the organization. ALS is a fatal, progressive neuromuscular disease in which the sufferer eventually loses all muscle control.
There is, as yet, no cure.
“I sat there listening to this man, so consumed with sadness thinking that he couldn’t go to the bathroom, couldn’t feed himself because of this disease,” Shonda says. “I had been feeling sorry for myself because I wasn’t working and didn’t feel like I had an identity. This really put things in perspective.”
Since 1992, the Schillings have helped raise $4 million for The ALS Association. Through a program called “Curt’s Pitch,” they continue to raise funds from donors who agree to commit between $1 and $10 for every strikeout Curt pitches.
Learn about ALS and Curt’s Pitch at www.als.org or the ALS Massachusetts chapter at www.als-ma.org.
A Frightening Bout
Three years ago, at age 33, Shonda was diagnosed with skin cancer – a deadly stage 2 malignant melanoma, to be exact.
A lifelong sunbather, Shonda underwent five surgeries to remove the cancer, resulting in 25 scars on her back, arms, legs and chest. She survived, and in 2002, she founded the SHADE Foundation of America. Through the foundation, Shonda hopes to change public attitude about sun exposure, to help prevent skin cancer.
Because skin cancer runs in both her family and in Curt’s, the Schillings are strict users of sunscreen and sun-protective clothing. Their children have been taught to avoid being in the sun during prime sun hours.
Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency teamed up with SHADE to promote a sun-safety curriculum called SunWise. Hundreds of schools nationwide now teach this program in their classrooms. And this year, Shonda partnered SHADE with Boston’s Dana Farber Cancer Institute to launch the SunWise curriculum here.
For more information on SHADE and the SunWise initiative, visit www.shadefoundation.org.
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