It’s been a year since Patty Haberstroh’s family started the Hot Pepper Challenge, to raise funds for ALS. Three months earlier, she’d been diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease.
It’s been 3 years since the Frates family first did the Ice Bucket Challenge, for the same important cause.
This morning, Patty — the energetic, creative program specialist in Westport’s Human Services Department — her family, and the Frateses, were in New York. They rang the opening NASDAQ bell, in their continuing efforts to raise both funds and awareness of ALS.
They were joined by Westporter Paul LaHiff and his family. He too has ALS (also called Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Also on hand: ALS Foundation members, and representatives of the company that produces the Radicava drug.
Paul LaHiff (front, left) and Patty Haberstroh (front, right), with families and friends, this morning on the NASDAQ floor.
The ceremony was televised live on CNBC. And in case anyone missed Patty with her pepper shirt — well, look here:
Patty continues to advocate for ALS causes — and treatments. Yesterday, she was interviewed by WSHU. Click here for that inspiring story.
Everyone in Westport knows Patty Haberstroh. The energetic, creative and deeply committed family programs specialist for the town’s Human Services Department ensures that our neediest neighbors get the resources they deserve — and that those of us with the ability to help get a chance to do so.
Patty’s husband Charlie is embedded in town too: He chairs the Parks and Recreation Commission. Patty’s sons starred on Staples High School sports teams, and retain strong ties to their hometown.
So when Patty was diagnosed 3 months ago with ALS, they did what the Haberstroh family always does: got together, and got to work.
The result is the #ALSPepperChallenge. It’s like the 2014 Ice Bucket Challenge — except much, much hotter.
The idea is to eat a hot pepper — habanero or jalapeno — on camera. You’re filmed making a pledge to help find a cure. Then you nominate someone (or many others) to do the same.
A project like this needs a kick start. Patty’s son Tom — a longtime ESPN basketball writer — was just the man. His sports and media connections pushed the #ALSPepperChallenge into overdrive.
Since Christmas, Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley have eaten peppers — and raised funds. So have Domonique Foxworth, Dan Le Batard and the Miami Heat.
Oh, yeah: The Staples boys basketball team is doing it too.
“I’d never eaten a habanero, and I never want to again. But I’ll eat it a thousand more times if it means my mother and others living with ALS can kick this horrible disease,” Tom told People.
“There is no effective treatment for ALS. There is no cure. Anything we can do to change that, we’re going to try.”
(If you’re wondering: Why hot peppers? There are few things that make you feel more alive than eating one.)
Patty has been buoyed by support from friends, her sons’ and daughter’s friends, and complete strangers.
The average life span after diagnosis is 3 to 5 years. “I’m fighting against time here,” Patty said.
“I pray that these hot pepper eaters are raising enough money to find a cure for me and others before it’s too late.”
Anyone who knows Patty Haberstroh — and in Westport, that’s all of us — knows she is not sitting back, feeling sorry for herself.
She told People: “The adage to live each day fully has never rung more true to me. I’m saying to people that I’m lucky in that you often wish in a memorial service that the person who has passed away could hear the wonderful things being said about them. I am reading and seeing those things said while I’m very much here!”
The accolades will continue.
As will the hot pepper-eating, video-making and fundraising — in Westport, and around the world.
(For more information — and the donation page — click here.)
You’ve probably heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: the video craze in which someone pours (or has poured) ice water over his or her head, and challenges others do the same within 24 hours. If not, they make a donation to fight ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).
Plenty of folks are doing it creatively, wetly and freezingly. The videos are clever and funny.
But you’d have to go a long way to top this, from Westporter Jake Sussman:
Jake dedicated his video — created with the help of Peter Greenberg, of Able Construction — to a contractor who died of ALS. Jake also donated $100 to the ALS Foundation.
He hopes his video goes viral. Feel free to pass it along — and take the Ice Bucket Challenge yourself, too!
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