Inspired by the passion of those in the performing arts in the Cleveland area, THE HEART OF THE ARTS series showcases the causes of our local artists OFF the stage. Get educated, get inspired, get involved!
She’s a Wooster, OH resident who’s been dancing since she was a kid and has started a modeling career in her 50s. Ellen Pill Blooming is also a widow, losing her husband Chad to ALS (commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in 2007.
“My husband died of ALS just a few weeks shy of our 5th wedding anniversary. I promised him the day before he died that we’d keep raising awareness and funds until a cure is found,” says Ellen.
This Ohio screenwriter, voice over artist, dance teacher and actress has been promoting her cause ever since. But what is this disease that bears the name of baseball great, Lou Gehrig?
Ellen explains that ALS stands for “Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis – more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease – in Europe known at Motor Neuron Disease.” She goes on to describe it as a progressive, fatal neurological disease that leaves its victims unable to move, eat, speak and ultimately breathe – usually within 18 months to 5 years of diagnosis.
According to the ALS Association website (www.alsa.org), Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis can be translated from the Greek: “A-myo-trophic = “A” means no or negative. “Myo” refers to muscle, and “Trophic” means nourishment – “No muscle nourishment.” When a muscle has no nourishment, it “atrophies” or wastes away. “Lateral” identifies the areas in a person’s spinal cord where portions of the nerve cells that signal and control the muscles are located. As this area degenerates it leads to scarring or hardening (“sclerosis”) in the region.”
Chad Blooming worked for the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities for twenty years. He was an athlete, an avid sports fan and a motorcyclist – he was a true “Renaissance man”. He was diagnosed in 2004, just two years after he and Ellen were married. Ellen says he noticed a “foot drop” in his left foot when he walked the dog (that’s when your foot doesn’t bend properly when you walk.) ALS can manifest itself entirely different in every person. With Chad, his legs were paralyzed first, then his arms, then his hands, and eventually it became increasingly more difficult for him to eat and breathe.
Ellen reminisces about living with her husband’s ALS. “It doesn’t affect your life, it becomes your life. First, all energy and funds are directed to learning about any possible treatments and breakthroughs. We traveled all over the country attending seminars, visiting everyone from a top notch ALS neurologist at John Hopkins, to an Amish healer in rural Indiana where we had to make our appointment by snail mail and then just show up at his house. As the disease progressed, just [trying to live] daily life became all consuming.” Ellen recounts trying to juggle raising a teenage daughter, taking care of a house and pets, being there for Chad, and working full time from home as a writer. “By the last year, I tended to sleep about 4 hours/night… for months I basically only left [the house] to walk the dog when hospice would come.”
Now Ellen reaches out to others to raise awareness of the disease and to find funds for a cure.
She’s been profiled in numerous newspaper articles and included in a NYC NBC piece. She’s also volunteered with Ride for Life, Angels 4 ALS and other groups. She annually conducts her own fundraiser in Wooster, OH. Last year in Wooster, they raised over $6,000. This year (the 6th year), all of funds will be directed to Hospice through a special fund that will be created as a donation in Chad’s memory. “We will have a folk concert with Steven Howell (David Rosen will also be playing this year), a meal, and karaoke. Chad loved karaoke!”
Ellen’s art has brought her through the highs and the lows of ALS. She says, “During [Chad’s] illness, writing was very therapeutic. Whether poetry just for myself, or writing about my experiences to family and friends, and even weaving it into my work in interesting ways.”
She’s done a series of articles for hospice, written and voiced a public service announcement, showcased local talent for fundraisers, and created PR materials for a number of ALS organizations. One of her ultimate goals is to write a film, one with a lead character who has ALS.
After Chad died, Ellen started dancing again, as she feels that dancing has always been a way to let go of the rest of the world. Theatre is like that for her, too – she believes it’s like stepping into another world where nothing else matters. Good thing for the world, though, that off the stage Ellen fights for the things that DO matter.
For more information on ALS or to donate, visit the ALS Association website:
For links to pieces on Chad and Ellen Blooming, visit:
- Angels 4 ALS: http://alsguardianangels.com/events.html
- ALS Ride for Life: http://rideforlife.com/
Ellen provided pictures of herself and Chad. See Ellen’s SLIDESHOW by Clicking Here.
Read more HEART OF THE ARTS ARTICLES:
– Cleveland-area Musician Mixes Canines and Kitties
– Allison Lint Fights Vasculitis With Her Violin
Do you have a Cleveland area performing arts related story or event? Contact Cleveland Performing Arts Examiner, KATE MILLER at [email protected].