Over the last couple weeks, we’ve all borne witness to the viral trend that has essentially become a movement: the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money and increase awareness of ALS. As could be expected, the poker world has been swept up by the phenomenon as well, with superstar players like Phil Hellmuth and Antonio Esfandiari taking part, along with numerous other poker industry notables.
A few days ago, one other very special poker player whom you probably haven’t heard of took the Ice Bucket Challenge: Gal Sont.
Gal isn’t the next up-and-coming professional card sharp. In fact, he’s just a recreational player – a fan of game, just like you and I. Objectively speaking, it might be said that Gal has been running bad – he was diagnosed with ALS five years ago. Yet, despite the fact that he’s been relegated to the proverbial chip and a (wheel)chair, this is one special poker player who has not given up on living.
Making a Difference
I worked at a start-up company with Gal, a highly skilled computer programmer, back before he got sick. After we both left the company, we kept in touch in part due to our shared love of poker, playing in a number of home games and tournaments together. He’s also a regular reader of this blog.
Just over a year ago, as his condition continued to worsen, Gal co-founded Click2Speak, a company dedicated to empowering individuals with severe physical impairments to communicate through a revolutionary eye-movement-powered on-screen keyboard.
The spotlight recently shone on Gal’s inspiring story via a short documentary feature by the BBC World News, which I highly encourage you all to watch (below).
Life Deals You the Cards. It’s Up to You to Decide How to Play Them
Rather than look at his ALS as a debilitating terminal disease, Gal simply considers it to be a challenge – a high-stakes heads-up battle if you will. As Click2Speak’s other co-founder, Dan Russ, correctly says: “when Gal has passion for something – nothing stops him”.
I cannot comprehend the inner strength and intestinal fortitude Gal has had to summon in order to move forward towards his goals. By the same token, it should not be forgotten that Gal’s beautiful family – his wife and two daughters – have also had to experience tremendous challenges of their own. One can only applaud and commend them, as well as wish them continued strength, as they continue to stare down a seemingly irresistible opponent.
Poignantly, there’s a saying in Judaism that “God’s salvation comes in the blink of an eye”. I can think of no statement more apropos.
I love you Gal – stay strong and keep fighting and inspiring us my friend.
Gal’s Ice Bucket Challenge video is embedded below; it’s in Hebrew. You can skip to the 2-minute mark. It’s so good to see Gal laughing!