Connecticut lacrosse star battling ALS
Lacrosse players and friends from around Fairfield County and across the nation are rallying around one of the best lacrosse players ever to come from Connecticut as he faces a battle with ALS.
Graham Harden began his high school career at New Canaan High School, making the varsity team as a freshman and sophomore. Graham finished his high school career at Deerfield Academy, leading his lacrosse team to a Western New England Prep School League Championship during his senior season.
Graham received All-Western New England honors in 1986 and 1987 and high school All-America honors in 1987. Graham captained his lacrosse team both his junior and senior seasons and captained both his football and hockey teams during his senior year. His senior year, Graham received the Dr. Frank L. Boyden Award recognizing a Western Massachusetts prep football player for outstanding achievement on the field and in the classroom.
He was a defenseman and co-MVP of the University of North Carolina lacrosse team that put together a perfect season on the way to the NCAA Championship 25 years ago. Known as “The Battleship” by his teammates for being a defensive fortress on the field, Harden would end his collegiate career as a first-team All-America selection, National Defensive Player of the Year, ACC Player of the Year and one of the top 50 lacrosse players in ACC history.
He also will be inducted into the Connecticut Lacrosse Hall Of Fame on November 19th.
Two and half decades later, Harden is focusing once again on putting his defensive skills to work as he faces an even greater battle and a tougher foe.
In August, the 48-year-old Harden, a married father of three, volunteer firefighter, first responder and gifted boys and girls high school lacrosse coach, received the heartbreaking diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. ALS patients universally experience progressive muscle weakness that eventually robs them of the ability to walk, talk, swallow, and ultimately breathe, all while leaving their minds intact. Despite the wildly successful "Ice Bucket Challenge, " ALS has no cure, no effective treatment and an average lifespan from diagnosis of two to five years.
Drawing strength from his family, friends, community and background as an elite athlete, Harden declared "Game On, ALS!" His approach and philosophy were to immediately do whatever he could to fight it and delay the progression of the disease. From dietary supplements to consults with some of the leading experts on ALS, Harden is leaving no stone unturned.
Anticipating the challenges ahead, he and his family have an army behind them known as the GForce. The GForce is comprised of people who have been touched by Harden and his family. Known as "tireless givers," the Hardens are now on the receiving end of hundreds of supporters.
ALS affects approximately 6,000 Americans annually. There are roughly 30,000 people currently living with the disease.
An ALS diagnosis does not end with physical challenges. ALS victims and their families face extraordinary medical and incidental expenses as a result of this diagnosis. Estimates for medical costs alone range from $200,000 to $300,000/year, most of which encompass the ventilation, feeding tube, and in-home care generally not covered by insurance.
It doesn't end there. There are another several hundred thousand dollars in additional expenses for necessities such as home modifications, specialized van, wheelchair, patient lift and computer eye gaze technology that allows the patient, who will retain the use of his eye muscles despite complete paralysis, to continue interacting with family, friends and work.
To help the Harden family offset these monumental expenses a YouCaring site has been created. Donations to the Graham Harden II Family Trust can be made by visiting the site (https://www.youcaring.com/GrahamHarden).
In addition, there are numerous efforts and events across the country in the planning stages to assist the Harden family. For information on events or how to help, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.