More commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, ALS is a devastating neuromuscular disease. Initial symptoms can include clumsiness, tripping, trouble gripping and slurred speech, and the disease generally progresses to a state of complete paralysis within five years.
After meeting with ALS patients, the Schillings -- along with their two oldest children, 11-year-old Gehrig and 9-year-old Gaby -- entered the reception as the theme from "Jeopardy!" played in the background. Curt Schilling won $25,000 on the game show on Nov. 9 playing for the ALS Association and The Shade Foundation, which was founded by Shonda Schilling and is dedicated to eradicating melanoma.
Curt Schilling bantered with fans during a question-and-answer session that followed an award ceremony.
"It's not the Yankees," he quipped when asked the toughest team he has faced.
Schilling also gave attendees some insight into what they might expect regarding negotiations with potential signings free-agent outfielder J.D. Drew and Japanese right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka. Both Drew and Matsuzaka are represented by agent Scott Boras.
"Anytime you have a player represented by Scott Boras, there are always subplots and sideshows," Schilling said. "Scott is going to get the message out that he needs to get for his client."
An undercurrent running throughout the afternoon was that, as he emphasized again on Sunday, Schilling plans to retire following the 2007 season.
"Trust me. I've tried to talk him out of it," Shonda Schilling said.
But what does she think about having Curt around all the time?
"I try really hard not to think about that," she deadpanned.
Looking toward his retirement, Curt founded Green Monster Games, a company dedicated to producing innovative multiplayer online games, earlier this year.
Keith Moegle, the assistant to the president at Green Monster Games, was diagnosed with ALS two years ago.
"He cares. He's just really probably the most unbelievably caring person you could ever meet," said Moegle, who makes his one hour, 45-minute commute driving a van specially equipped with hand controls. "He's probably one of the most unique employers because he's so professional."
Schilling also serves on the governing board of the Translational Genomics Research Institute, a non-profit organization focused on developing earlier diagnostics and smarter treatments, which announced on Thursday that a comprehensive scan of the human genome had identified more than 50 genetic abnormalities in people with sporadic ALS.
"It's incredibly exciting," said Dr. Merit Cudkowicz, the co-director of the Massachusetts General Hospital ALS Clinic, who attended Sunday's event. "They did in four months what people have been trying to do for years."
Thus far this year, more than $671,000 has been raised for ALS research and patient care, according to Rick Arrowood, the president and CEO of the ALS Association: Massachusetts Chapter. Arrowood hopes to see that total surpass $1 million by the end of the year, but according to Curt Schilling, the dollar figures are not the most critical part of the efforts.
"There's an awareness component to all of this that goes far beyond the money," he said. "The awareness thing has been probably far more valuable on a global scale than the money.
"Events like this are kind of at the heart of what we do, taking it to really a grassroots level," Schilling said. "The great thing about the Mass chapter is that there are a lot of people in this program ... that don't have someone in their family with ALS."
Representatives of the Red Sox in attendance included executive vice president/public affairs Dr. Charles Steinberg and senior vice president/corporate relations Meg Vaillancourt, who won the Curt and Shonda Schilling Humanitarian Award in 2004. This year, the honor was posthumously awarded to Rep. Deborah Blumer.