Spongebob Squarepants began airing on Nickelodeon in 1999. Yesterday, the creator of one of Nickelodeon’s longest running cartoons announced that he was diagnosed with ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Hillenburg shared a statement with Variety that read, “I wanted people to hear directly from me that I have been diagnosed with ALS. 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.”
Nickelodeon issued a statement as well that read, “Steve Hillenburg is a brilliant creator who brings joy to millions of fans. 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.”
Reportedly, Hillenburg was diagnosed in the early stages of the neurodegenerative disease. ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a rare terminal illness that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.