The classic Nickelodeon cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants has been bringing joy to children and families for nearly two decades, if that can even be believed. Ever since 1999, the fictitious sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea has been getting into all sorts of adventures, spots of trouble, and taking full advantage of every chance to be hilarious at all points in between. The main reason SpongeBob has been so successful in its 18-year run is the creator and talented animator Stephen Hillenburg, who has been with the show off and on for its entire run.
Now, Hillenburg has announced via Variety that he has been diagnosed with ALS, the degenerative disease that affects more than 30,000 Americans in all, with more than 5,000 diagnosed anew each year.
“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.”
According to Variety, Hillenburg has only been diagnosed recently and plans to stay with the show as long as he can. This is a blow to the cartoon, as it has grown from a family-friendly show into a family-friendly juggernaut worth many hundreds of millions of dollars.
A statement from SpongeBob‘s television home Nickelodeon will be their only comment on the matter.
“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.”
UPROXX sends thoughts to Stephen, and hopes he will continue making millions of children happy via SpongeBob‘s unending enthusiasm and adventurousness for many years to come.