Kernels, Carlson Fight ALS

By Jeff Johnson, The Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS – Mark Carlson is one of the most social media-less guys you’ll ever meet.

The Cedar Rapids RoughRiders head coach and general manager doesn’t have a Facebook account, isn’t on Twitter. Refreshingly, he lives his life without it, though you wonder if that will change.

Social media has shed so much light and raised so much money for a cause that is so near and so dear to Carlson’s heart. His father, Robert, died nine years ago of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Of course, you’ve heard of it because it has gone viral, with athletes, celebrities, politicians and seemingly everyone taking part.

The Challenge involves having a bucket of ice water poured on your head or donating to the ALS Association. Or you can do both.

Those challenged have 24 hours to accept or donate. The idea was hatched by a former Boston College baseball player who was diagnosed with the disease in 2012.

The ALS Association announced Monday that $15.6 million has been raised since July 29 to fight the disease. During that three-week time frame last year, it was $1.8 million.

“I realize there are so many terrible diseases out there,” Carlson said. “But with ALS, it’s a disease where there is not a cure right now. If you are diagnosed, it is literally a death sentence. And compared to others, there has not been a lot of successful fundraising. To see it spike this much is great. It’s unbelievable.”

The RoughRiders wear special player jerseys each season they auction to benefit the ALS Association with Robert Carlson’s initials sewn on them. Mark Carlson already has accepted and performed two Ice Bucket Challenges, challenging Waterloo Black Hawks head coach P.K. O’Handley and assistant coach Shane Fukushima last week.

Cedar Rapids Kernels players and front office staff did a group Challenge Monday at Veterans Memorial Stadium. Manager Jake Mauer and his brother, Billy, did one later in the day, accepting a Challenge from brother, Joe, the Minnesota Twins star.

“To me, the one thing that is so interesting with this is how it spread so wildly,” Carlson said. “I would think your smarter businesses would do case studies on it.”

Carlson urged people interested in learning about ALS or donating to visit www.alsa.org.

“My dad was very hard working, very disciplined,” he said. “Definitely a tough-love type of guy. He really cared for and loved all the people around him, pushed me to do everything the right way, whether it was shoveling the driveway, cutting the lawn, doing (my) running work for hockey or riding the stationary bike or shooting pucks or giving effort on the ice as a kid. It was all about details and those kinds of things.

“Having him die from this disease, I just want to thank everyone out there who has been a part of this. It’s been amazing.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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