HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – The rain lent a hand in helping drench some North Alabama CEOs under the buckets of Brahan Spring Park’s splash pad for the region’s first CEO Soak, hosted by the Alabama Chapter of the ALS Association.
“It’s hot out here so I’m ready!” GovCon CEO Lee Mixon said. “I’ve got clothes in the car and a bag for my wet clothes,” Avion Solutions CEO Chad Donald said.
In the weeks leading up, GovCon and the other participating companies have been fundraising for Alabama’s chapter.
Mixon said he was compelled to take part in the CEO Soak, which benefits programs and research for those impacted by the disease, because of a statistic he learned about veterans.
“Veterans are two-times more likely to get ALS. I’m a veteran myself so that really hit home,” Mixon said.
For Donald, one of his employees was directly impacted by ALS. After further research, he learned this was a cause they wanted to support.
“We like to support community-focused and help in any way we can,” he said. “It drew a lot of excitement out of our time and helped us to fundraise. I think a lot of people wanted to see the CEO get kind of wet!”
The CEOs of North Alabama aren’t the only ones taking the plunge. Nationwide, other executives are getting soaked to help raise as much money as possible for the ALS Association. The goal, according to Alabama chapter co-founders Stuart and Martha Obermann, is for the CEO Soak to follow in the footsteps of 2014’s nationwide Ice Bucket Challenge, which raised over $100 million for the Association.
“It was an incredible viral fundraiser that raised over $100 million for the Association and much of that money has been deployed to fund research and fund new programs and services for families and patients living with ALS,” Stuart said.
The Obermanns say Huntsville’s CEO Soak was a great start to what they hope grows even bigger. Through the fundraiser, which is ongoing, more than $30,000 was raised ahead of Tuesday’s event. That money benefits those in the area, including those utilizing Alabama’s only ALS care clinic, which is in Huntsville. Marcia was the initial director of the clinic when it first began.
“At any given time there’s usually 25 families in Huntsville and Madison County that are living with the disease. Over 250 in Alabama so it’s a more common disease than people think,” Stuart said.
The Obermann family is one of them. Their son, Eric, died at age 29 after 10 years of living with ALS. Marcia said part of the reason Eric lived a decade was because they had access to information.
“When you’re in the disease club of ALS, there’s just a lot of it out there and people don’t know where to turn. You need awareness, events like this, financial support for struggling families so you can live the best quality of life you can with ALS,” Marcia said.
They say advocacy for research was his passion, even making multiple trips to Capitol Hill. The end goal for the ALS Association is to fund research until a cure is found, or at least a way to make the disease livable.
“Cures don’t come overnight. We’ve been studying this disease for over 100 years and we’re not there yet, but there are some promising treatments that have been coming out lately that will extend life six months or two years. That might not seem like a long time, but if you’re an ALS patient who is typically going to die in three to five years, six months is an eternity to spend with their family,” Stuart said.
That’s why events like the CEO Soak are so important.
“The money that we raise here locally and across the country will help get us there,” Stuart said.