Mariemont lacrosse coach leads fight against Lou Gehrig's disease

TERRACE PARK, Ohio -- You may remember the Ice Bucket Challenge of 2014, but you may have forgotten it was meant to bring attention to an incurable disease diagnosed in more than 5,000 Americans each year: ALS, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease.

Forty-eight-year-old Terrace Park resident Graham Harden knows that fact very well. Harden first noticed knee pain and then a limp in August 2016 before his doctor made the diagnosis of ALS. He said he had a decision to make. 

"It's a tough nut to crack because you're talking about your brain, your motoneurons, your spinal cord. Those are all very difficult to get at," Harden said. "We go down one path or the other. We go down the path (of) self-pity or we can take some good, put some good into it." 

With the help of his sister, Harden started GForce, a foundation that they envision eventually helping families of children impacted by ALS send their children to college. For now, though, the money they raise helps Harden and his family deal with the soaring medical costs of treating his ALS. They did organize a first step toward the foundation's vision with a walk in September 2016 that raised over $40,000 for the ALS Association.

Harden was a lacrosse legend in his time who was named a first team All-American defenseman, won the Schmeisser Cup as the National Defenseman of the Year and was named ACC Player of the Year in 1991 for the NCAA Champion University of North Carolina Tarheels.

Harden playing at UNC in the early 1990s.

He's been sharing his lacrosse skills by coaching both boys and girls lacrosse at Mariemont High School, helping his players step up to the next level. He hopes to step back on the field this spring as coach.

"If I don't show them that I can fight it, why would they do that on the field?" Harden asked.

Harden and his friends have organized a bocce tournament to raise even more money to fight ALS. The 2017 Snow Moon Bocce Cup starts at 3 p.m. Saturday in Terrace Park. More than 150 are expected to participate. 

Anybody wishing to make a donation may visit the crowdfunding website here.

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