When Ralph “Boonie” Lethbridge learned that his close friend had been diagnosed with ALS, he refused to stand by and do nothing.
Lethbridge is well-known in Clarenville, a town in the province Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, for selling Christmas trees and his distinctive beard. He has been his beard for nearly 40 years. Despite having his facial hair since he was 16, he chose to shave it all off in support of his friend Larry Boyd, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a “neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscles (muscle action we are able to control, such as those in the arms, legs, and face).” The NINDS describes the condition as “rapidly progressive, invariably fatal.”
In addition to shaving his beard for his friend, Lethbridge was able to raise $51,000 for ALS — far surpassing his initial goal of $5000. Before his wife, Virginia, made the first cut, Lethbridge told reporters, “I’m going to look beautiful with two blue eyes and two front teeth, happiest man in the world.”
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