The stars donated thousands of dollars to help firefighter Eric Stevens, who was diagnosed with ALS a month after his wedding
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Joe Manganiello and Sofia Vergara teamed up this weekend to gift a surprise donation to a Los Angeles firefighter who was diagnosed with a devastating and life-threatening disease just a month after his wedding.
The trio was in Santa Monica on Saturday to watch professional weightlifters compete at the Arnold Strongman USA competition. The annual contest serves as a fundraiser for the Santa Monica Firefighters Relief Fund, CalFire Benevolent Foundation and the Ventura County Widows and Orphans Fund.
In a special moment during the event, organizers brought out 30-year-old firefighter Eric Stevens, who was diagnosed in August with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a deadly neurological that slowly takes away a person’s ability to control their muscles.
Stevens — a former captain of the University of California, Berkeley football team and player for the St. Louis Rams — received the heartbreaking news just weeks after he married his longtime sweetheart, Amanda Stevens.
After the couple shared their story with the hundreds in attendance, they were taken by surprise when they were presented with a $10,000 donation funded by earnings from the event’s three charities. The donation will help Stevens get access to promising trials and treatments for the disease, which currently has no known cure.
After the unexpected announcement, Schwarzenegger, 72, stepped in to say he was matching the $10,000 donation. But the Terminator star’s announcement wouldn’t be the last surprise of the night.
Manganiello, 43, then said that he and Vergara, 47, were matching the contribution, too — and with that announcement, the couple raised a whopping $30,000 toward their efforts in a single day.
“We are so incredibly thankful for the amazing support today! It’s important for us to raise awareness and educate people as there are many families like us suffering due to this disease,” the couple wrote on their Team Stevens Nation Instagram page after the event. “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!”
Because the disease affects the nerve cells in the brain and spine that control muscle movement, patients slowly lose their ability to speak, eat, walk and breathe on their own. Patients diagnosed with ALS first experience twitching or weakness in a limb, followed by slurred speech, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The disease typically claims the lives of those who are diagnosed with it within three to five years.
“You’re racing against time every day, you’re just slowly deteriorating,” Stevens told KTLA in November. “The multiple doctors that we’ve seen, they’re sitting there telling you all these great things that are coming, but they’re stuck in these trials.”
The family started a GoFundMe page in October that has so far raised more than $765,000. They said it will be used to pay for medical costs and to raise awareness of the disease.