DALLAS, May 8, 2017 -- The “Ice Bucket Challenge” became a viral phenomenon in 2014, inspiring thousands to drench themselves with ice and freezing water to raise money and awareness about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Three years later, North Texas businessman Mario A. Finnell, is fighting to refocus the spotlight on ALS by hosting a star-studded fundraiser and by sharing his own struggle with the illness.
“Like so many others, I dumped a big bucket of ice over my head for fun-- never thinking that I would become afflicted with this debilitating disease,” said Finnell, 49, a business analyst who was diagnosed with ALS in August. “Just months ago, I was working, traveling, and making plans with family and friends. Now, my speech is labored, I am in a wheelchair and need help in ways that I never imagined I would.”
With help from his close-knit family and friends, Finnell will officially launch the Mario A. Finnell ALS Foundation and fundraiser from 7-11 p.m. Saturday, May 13 at the Mercantile Building, 1800 Main St., Dallas. Popular K-104 radio host DeDe McGuire, comedian Nanette Lee, and other well-known local and national figures will make special appearances. There is a suggested $50 donation. Visit here for more information.
For Shirley Finnell, May 13 will be a Mother’s Day weekend that she will forever hold dear to her heart.
“Mario is remarkable and I’m not just saying that because he is my son,” said Shirley of her youngest child-- a Skyline High School and University of North Texas alumnus. “From the very beginning, Mario put his trust in God and he never asked, ‘why me, mom?’ He said he wanted to do something to help others who aren’t as fortunate to have the support that he has experienced. So that is what this Mother’s Day weekend will be about.”
Finnell said she is also thankful for the kindness that has been shown to her family from congregants at their longtime church, Concord, and by doctors and nurses at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
No family history of the disease
ALS is a rare neurological diseases that affects nerve cells (neurons) in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. Voluntary muscles produce movements like chewing, walking, breathing and talking. The disease is progressive, which means symptoms get worse over time. As with Mario, the majority of ALS cases are considered sporadic, meaning the disease seems to occur at random with no clearly associated risk factors and no family history of the disease. About 5 to 10 percent of all ALS cases are familial, or, an individual inherits the disease from his or her parents.
Currently, there is no cure for ALS and no effective treatment to stop, or reverse, the progression of the disease. Early symptoms of ALS usually include muscle weakness or stiffness. Gradually all muscles under voluntary control are affected, and individuals lose their strength and the ability to speak, eat, move, and even breathe. Visit the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke for more information.
Mario knows that a cure might not come fast enough for him, but he is on a mission to provide care, support, and comfort to those living with ALS and also to their caregivers through high-quality, consistent and compassionate support services.