Sometimes the quietest people have the loudest voices. That is especially true of Shirley (Hoffman) Schmelzle, whose voice has been all-but silenced by Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), but who still manages to have her message of ALS awareness heard.
Diagnosed with ALS in 2009, the former department store executive has launched a campaign to adopt the sunflower as the official symbol of hope for those battling with ALS. The goal of the sunflower symbol is to provide a simplified and consistent external public image representing ALS Awareness that is easy to recognize and visually unifying.
“When I was first diagnosed with ALS, I was struck by the fact that there is no common image promoting ALS Awareness,” says Shirley. “There is no pink ribbon, no red dress for ALS,” she continued, referring to the eponymous symbols for breast cancer and heart health awareness.
Just like the pink ribbon symbolizes breast cancer awareness or the red dress symbolizes heart health, the sunflower is a perfect fit to symbolize ALS Awareness. “The sunflower,” she explained, “stands tall and strong, ever hopeful and ever reaching higher. Sunflowers grow in clusters and support each other as they grow, just as family, friends and community offer support to those who live with ALS.”
The symbol itself features a trio of sunflowers reaching upwards towards the sun, with the words “Defeat ALS” anchoring the image. It was designed to evoke a sense of hope, grace and dignity and to reflect the support that those living with ALS receive from their team of supporters.
“The ALS Association is just one stakeholder among many in the battle to defeat ALS,” said ALS Association President & CEO Jane Gilbert. “A common visual identity will help us to maximize this collaboration now and in the future. We fully support the campaign to make the sunflower the common symbol of ALS Awareness and encourage other ALS organizations to do so, as well.”