SpongeBob SquarePants Creator Stephen Hillenburg Announces That He Has Been Diagnosed With ALS

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Photo: Jim Spellman/Getty Images

For almost two decades, children have fallen in love with a chipper little sea sponge and his motley crew of underwater neighbors on Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants, and the show’s creator Stephen Hillenburg has no intention of changing that now that he’s been diagnosed with ALS, a degenerative motor neuron illness also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. “I wanted people to hear directly from me that I have been diagnosed with ALS,” the animator told Variety in a statement. “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.”

Marine-biology teacher turned animator Hillenburg based SpongeBob on his comic book The Intertidal Zone. After debuting in 1999, the show became a runaway success currently renewed through its eleventh season. “Steve Hillenburg is a brilliant creator who brings joy to millions of fans,” Nickelodeon said in a statement. “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.”

SpongeBob SquarePants Creator Reveals His ALS Diagnosis