South Lake Tahoe man with ALS inspires scholarship |

South Lake Tahoe man with ALS inspires scholarship

Jack Barnwell
Kevin Sullivan is wheeled out onto the South Tahoe High School football field during the Oct. 2 homecoming game. Sullivan, who has ALS, acted as an honorary captain and participated in the coin toss.
Anthony Gentile / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Kevin “Sully” Sullivan, 50, graduated in 1984 from South Tahoe High School after a successful high school football and wrestling career. He is the second person from the 1984 class to be diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, according to his brother Richard Sullivan.

“He’s at a point where he can’t walk and [you] can’t understand some of what he is saying, but his mental facilities are still sharp,” Richard Sullivan said.

Sullivan’s struggle with ALS recently garnered support, including establishing a scholarship with his name.

The community’s support included honoring Sullivan at the Oct. 2 South Tahoe homecoming football game. Sullivan was rolled out onto the field during the coin toss, acted as an honorary captain during the game, and participated in the homecoming parade.

ALS is a disease of the nervous system that weakens muscles and impacts physical function. Speech, walking and breathing can all be affected. Less than 20,000 cases are diagnosed yearly in the U.S.

Todd Fields, a classmate of Sullivan’s, died from ALS in 1999 at the age of 33. The South Lake Tahoe baseball field at South Tahoe Middle School is named in his honor.

A 496-member Facebook group, “Friends of Kevin Sullivan,” aims to raise initial funds for scholarships by selling 500 T-shirts for $18 a piece. As of Oct. 13, the group sold 95 shirts and needs to sell the rest by Oct. 23.

The shirt’s design includes the initials KS on top of tree roots. The initials stand for “Kindness Spreads,” and also Kevin Sullivan’s initials. According to the campaign, the slogan was inspired by a quote from Amelia Earhart: “Random acts of kindness throw out roots in every direction.”

Mark Shehadi, part of the scholarship committee, said the goal is to raise $10,000 to establish scholarships in both Sullivan’s and Fields’ names.

Sullivan currently resides at Barton Memorial Hospital’s Skilled Nursing Center.

“The support is something that has just developed and it’s kind of remarkable,” Richard Sullivan said.

He added that the scholarships will be made available to children of South Tahoe High School alumni, but won’t be academic in nature.

Shehadi said he and Sullivan played football together growing up, and he considered Fields his best friend.

“Kevin was full of energy all the time, and he is just a great, good-hearted guy,” Shehadi said.

Despite being hit by a car in his youth, Shehadi said Sullivan recovered and kept on going.

“He lived and worked up here his entire life,” Shehadi said.

Fields, Shehadi said, was bright and energetic baseball player who returned to South Lake Tahoe after college.

“It’s amazing how the Tahoe community, and even those who aren’t living here anymore, have bonded together to support Kevin and come up with this idea for a scholarship,” Shehadi said.

For more information on the fundraiser, visit,

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