Heat’s Udonis Haslem to make acting debut in Kickstarter film about ALS

Thanks to awe-inspiring support from across America, the Ice Bucket Challenge has been a major success in raising awareness for Lou Gehrig’s Disease, with $110 million and counting in donations going to the ALS Association as the water flowed.

Local Miami filmmaker Gil Green believes there is more work to be done, and he wants to share his story about his good friend Jeff Fogel, a bright young man who was diagnosed with the crippling disease a few years ago.

Green has another buddy you might have heard of: longtime Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem. He is lending his good name and burgeoning acting skills to an upcoming film project directed by Green titled "Who Is Lou Gehrig?"

The uplifting short film will portray Fogel as he re-imagines daily tasks, which may seem relatively trivial to others, into various fantasies in order to help him manage with the progressively debilitating effects of the neurological disease.

"Jeff has inspired a lot of people because even though he has this disease, his mind is staying strong and he still is being active," Green says in a video he made with Fogel and Haslem to promote the project. "He’s inspired a lot of us."

Above all, Green stresses the project is meant to inspire anyone who faces obstacles in his or her life and how to overcome it with positivity and determination.

In Fogel’s case, his joy is basketball — something Haslem can definitely relate to. In his film debut, the Miami native and three-time NBA champion will appear in a scene where Fogel coaches his real-life girl’s basketball team and fantasizes about what it would be like to coach the Miami Heat.

"I was completely inspired by Jeff’s story," Haslem said in the promo video. "I had the opportunity to meet Jeff. For me, it was the perfect time to make my acting debut. I’ve been against acting for a long time. I really never had it in my blood, but I can’t think of a better reason to get out of my comfort zone, be able to do something positive and give back to the community to shed some light to people about this disease."

To help make the film become a reality, Green has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the production. The projected $60,000 budget would go towards everything from securing local permits to assembling a film crew.

Any leftover funds will be donated to the ALS Recovery Fund, a local charity that shares the same common goal as Green, to help find a cure and shine a light on those afflicted.

Pledges of $100 or more will not only allow donors to be able to see the film before it’s released but they can also score Heat tickets or Haslem’s autograph on a film still or basketball. The Heat Lifer is also willing to part with a few of his personal sneakers for the cause and will sign them and throw in upgraded Heat tickets.

Head on over to Kickstarter to donate, get more information on the project and learn more about Fogel’s life story.

You can follow Surya Fernandez on Twitter @SuryaHeatNBA or email him at SuryaFoxSports@gmail.com.