ALS ice challenge strikes chord in Concord
With an assist from an Olympic gold medalist, the viral ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge” has taken on a special meaning in Concord, where community members have dedicated getting doused to high school principal Gene Connolly.
Connolly, who will soon begin his 13th year at Concord High, announced his ALS diagnosis recently and said he plans to stay on the job as long as possible.
When the challenge reached Tara Mounsey, a Concord high graduate and 1998 women’s hockey gold medalist, she decided to dedicate it to Connolly. “I said, ‘This one is for you, Principal Connolly,’ ” said Mounsey. She then called out Concord girls’ hockey coach Stacy Boudrias, who challenged a group of recent graduates. Mounsey met Connolly while preparing her keynote speech for the Class of 2013 graduation. “It was nice to work with Gene and reconnect with the school and that class,” she said. “He was just so nice to work with. You can tell the students really, really like working with him and respect him. I think that as a student that’s who you hope is leading and running your school.”
“Gene is a huge supporter of the team, and I was glad Tara called me out,” said Boudrias. Connolly is the public announcer for home games and a fixture at Everett Arena, she said.
The “Ice Bucket Challenge” campaign started on Facebook to raise awareness and research money.
“It’s been a very busy and amazing week for anyone who is associated, whether personally or professionally, with ALS and ALS Awareness,” said Amy Coyne of the ALS Association of Northern New England.
Participants post videos of themselves dumping water over their head and then challenge friends, who have 24 hours to complete the challenge or donate to the ALS Association.
“I think in support of Gene it’s taken off around here,” Boudrias said. “I know the four girls I called out love Gene and absolutely didn’t think twice about it.”
One of those girls, 2014 graduate Annie Mullen, played softball at Concord. “He came to every game he could come to. It was awesome,” she said. “I just feel like the team got to know him in a different way. He saw us on the ice, and when we saw him in the hallway it was a different kind of connection.”
She did some research after getting Boudrias’s challenge. “I had seen a couple of videos, but I didn’t really know what it was about until Stacy challenged us,” she said. “As soon as she said, ‘This is for you, Mr. Connolly,’ I said I have to do it to support him.’ ”
She and a group of friends did the challenge Wednesday. “It wasn’t as bad as it seems,” she said. “I called out a couple of my friends, too, so we kept it going. I definitely think more people in Concord have participated and looked into it because of Mr. Connolly.”
The popularity of the challenge will hopefully help people learn about ALS and how they can help, Mounsey said. “This is going to be tough for him and tough for everyone around, but he’s an optimistic individual who will really inspire others to be strong and face what comes their way.”
(Iain Wilson can be reached at 369-3313 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @iainwilsoncm)