When Paul Wolf heard that fellow Hydro-Sonic Tiburones coach Jorge Silva’s mother had Lou Gehrig’s Disease (formally known as ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) he knew exactly what Silva was going through. His mother had passed away from the disease, which causes the muscles to weaken and eventually degenerate, in 2000. He knew about the frequent doctor visits, the expensive procedures and high medical costs that Silva would soon face.
Abuela, as she is called by the Tiburones team, was diagnosed a year ago and as her situation deteriorated, the Silvas decided to organize a fundraiser to mitigate the costs of Abuela’s treatment. They focused on the Montgomery Village-based Tiburones for support. Time was limited — they began planning the fundraiser just two months ago — which was their biggest hurdle.
“One of the major challenges has been getting the word out to everybody,” Wolf said. “Because of our time frame, we weren’t sure what we could do, so we’ve been reaching out to various companies in our area for recognition, sponsorship and things like that, but I wish we had more time to organize.”
But the Silvas were able to arrange “Abuela’s Swim: A Swim for ALS,” which will be this Saturday from 6-9 p.m. at the Quince Orchard Bubble in Gaithersburg. The fundraiser is two parts: a swimming event, where swimmers can collect pledges and raise money by swimming a certain distance, and then an auction in the evening. The money for the swim event will go to ALS research and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. And the money from the auction will help assuage Abuela’s medical costs. Wolf estimates that about a hundred Tiburones will participate this year, but he’s hoping that this weekend will evolve into an annual event featuring many local teams.
“Moving forward with this, once we get through the first one, we can have a get-together afterwards and say ‘what can we do better for next time?’ to make it a larger event and reach out to more groups,” Wolf said.
Though Abuela passed away at the end of October, Wolf stressed that the event would go on. Because of the short time-frame that Wolf and Silva had to arrange the event, they have no goals in terms of money raised. Wolf said his only goal was to raise awareness about this disease.
“We’ve gotten a good response from the kids,” Wolf said. “We just wanted to get something out there.”