News & Journal Editor

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is its scientific name, but perhaps you recognize the term better as “ALS” or Lou Gehrig’s disease.  ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.  Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from there to the muscles throughout the body.   As motor neurons degenerate, they are no longer able to send impulses to the muscles that result in movement.  The disease can not only affect movement of the arms and legs, but also speech, swallowing and even breathing.

Seventy-five years ago, young professional baseball player Lou Gehrig told his fans about his ALS diagnosis, but he continued to play despite repeated injuries.  Unfortunately, even after seven and a half decades, there is no known cure or successful treatment for the disease.  However, awareness of the disease is growing … as is research funding … through the creative ‘ice bucket challenges’ that dare and double dare individuals to douse themselves with buckets of frozen ice and chilling water!

Many such events have gone viral on social media sites and challenge others to join the campaign to raise awareness!  Sports figures, television personalities and even former President George Bush and his wife Laura were challenged to get involved!

Last week the Shinnston Spartan PeeWee and Midget Cheerleaders participated in the challenge which took place in the parking lot at Big Elm Elementary School.  They also solicited the help of the Shinnston Volunteer Fire Department.  The girls voluntarily dumped bowls of ice on their own heads, and this was followed by a thorough shower of cold water that drenched the girls from head to toe – compliments of the SVFD.

Spartan cheerleading coaches say they teach the girls more than cheering maneuvers and sports.  They also teach them the importance of community service and encourage the girls to give back.  The cheering squads have collected food for local food pantries and always celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness by wearing pink.  Coaches also talked to the girls about ALS, and it was the girls who elected to accept the ‘challenge’ by participating as a team.  Their families independently made donations on their behalf for participating.

Wendy Boyce, who serves as a Midget Assistant Coach as well as a Spartan Board member, said, “The girls were aware of the disease they were helping to raise research funding for and they were glad to accept this challenge.  They also challenged the Ida May Midgets and PeeWee cheerleaders as well as the East Fairmont Rockets squad to participate in an ice bucket challenge of their own.  Plus, it provided a little ‘fun’ for them at the same time.”

Boyce concluded, “We also wish to thank the Shinnston Volunteer Fire Department for helping us out with this event.  They are always so good to work as partners when it involves a community need, and we truly appreciated their time and willingness to participate.”

Members of the PeeWee Cheer Squad who participated wee: Kayleigh Criss, Karriss Drain, Isabella Loss, Aliyah Elder, Angelina Wright, Trinity Eldridge and Audrie Minigh.  They are coached by Christy Minigh, Whitney Elder and Elizabeth Wright.  Members of the Spartan Midget squad are: Halli Toothman, Kandace Robinson, Joshlynn Gooden, Kaylee Joyce, Sara Tate, Paige McGee, Sierra Moore, Laila Minigh, McKenzie Stire, Lacey  Workman, Zoey Klimek-Jenkins, Myah Heldreth, Hailey Boyce, Emalee Brown, Brynna Stutler and mascot Zarah Klimek-Jenkins.  They are coached by Desirae Stutler, Wendy Boyce, Mandi Brown, and Candi Toothman.

Pictured above are members of the Spartan PeeWee and Midget Cheerleading Squads, shown here being doused by a water ‘fog’ from a SVFD ladder truck – much lighter pressure than what would be used to fight a fire.
Pictured above are members of the Spartan PeeWee and Midget Cheerleading Squads, shown here being doused by a water ‘fog’ from a SVFD ladder truck – much lighter pressure than what would be used to fight a fire.