Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants, revealed to Variety magazine that he has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He plans to continue working on the show, which has been on the air since 1999.
In his statement to Variety, Hillenburg said:
“I wanted people to hear directly from me that I have been diagnosed with ALS. Anyone who knows me knows that I will continue to work on SpongeBob SquarePants and my other passions for as long as I am able. My family and I are grateful for the outpouring of love and support. We ask that our sincere request for privacy be honored during this time.”
ALS is a degenerative nerve disease that mainly affects the brain and spinal cord. It is extremely rare and, though there is no cure, there are treatments that can help people maintain a fairly normal life. Hillenburg is 55 years old and the disease is still in its early stages.
Hillenburg is a former marine biology teacher who decided to try bringing his love of the ocean to his other love: animation. SpongeBob SquarePants took off soon after its 1999 debut, becoming a commercial and critical success. Hillenburg served as the director for the 2004 SpongeBob SquarePants movie and was a writer and producer on its 2015 sequel film.
Nickelodeon released this statement about Hillenburg: “Steve Hillenburg is a brilliant creator who brings joy to millions of fans. Our thoughts and support are with Steve and his family during this difficult time. Out of respect for their wishes for privacy, we will have no further comment.”
SpongeBob Squarepants was recently renewed for a tenth and eleventh season. Keep Stephen Hillenburg and his family in your thoughts and prayers.
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