If SpongeBob Squarepants is a critical part of your childhood, you owe it all to Stephen Hillenburg, who created the Nickelodeon show back in 1999 and co-wrote and produced The SpongeBob SquarePants Movies. Sadly, the 55-year-old animator has just revealed he has been diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The illness affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, and we're heartbroken to hear he's going through this.
“I wanted people to hear directly from me that I have been diagnosed with ALS," Stephen shared in a statement to Variety. "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."
The former marine biology teacher changed so many kids' and families' lives when he translated his love for the ocean into an underwater cartoon, and it's so special that nothing is going to stop him from still working on SpongeBob.
The Nickelodeon network is nothing if not a connected family, but it still brought tears to our eyes when the official brand account tweeted a message of support to Stephen, using SpongeBob's pineapple house emoji in his honor.
Our thoughts and support are with Steve and his family 💛🍍 https://t.co/3TSyNBPIE2— Nickelodeon (@Nickelodeon) March 14, 2017
“Steve Hillenburg is a brilliant creator who brings joy to millions of fans," Nickelodeon shared in an official statement. "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.”
Nick stars like The Thundermans actress Kira Kosarin also took to Twitter to show their support.
Never had the honor of meeting you Mr. Hillenburg, but myself and the rest of the Nick family send our thoughts+support to you+your family. https://t.co/MeSjXpDz3t— Kira Kosarin (@kirakosarin) March 14, 2017
Our thoughts are also with Stephan and his family.