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ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Raises Money– and Spirits


Recently, Facebook and similar social media sites have become, quite literally, “drenched” in ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos, each with the same general plot: a nominated participant bravely withstands an onslaught of iced water, either willingly or forcibly. Some weather the ice bath stoically, clad in a T-shirt and shorts. Others don swimwear in preparation, only to shatter their aura of undaunted resignation with the shocked flail and high-pitched scream now a signature of the Ice Bucket Challenge. Participants “nominate” others to enter the challenge. The rules: If the nominee does not participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge within 24 hours, they must donate $100 to ALS research. Participants included Martha Stewart, Mark Zuckerberg, and Adam Levine. Much to nationwide dismay, President Obama opted to stay dry, instead choosing to donate $100.

But despite providing brief entertainment to sidelining friends– if not the hapless nominees– the ALS Bucket Challenge has an important purpose. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Ice Bucket Challenge was conceived by 29-year-old ALS victim Peter Frates. As the former head of the Boston College baseball team, Frates was inspired by a similar post-game tradition. After challenging local athletes to partake in the ritual, the stunt became instantly popular, unwittingly drawing attention to Frates, and, subsequently, his ALS.

ALS– amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease– is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects a patient’s ability to function normally and control muscle movement. Over the span of 2 years, a victim of ALS loses the ability to speak, move, eat, and eventually breathe. The disease is 100% fatal. Despite its severity, ALS is an underrepresented illness; in 2013, the ALS society raised approximately $30 million in donations, while the Leukemia and Lymphona Society raised over $185 million.

Some accuse the Ice Bucket Challenge of superficial glibness and minimal impact. However, as of August 16th, the ALS Association has reported a total of $11.4 million raised since July 29th, compared to $1.7 million raised in the same span of time the previous year. The ALS Association’s Upstate New York director called the challenge the “answer to our prayers”. The wife of an ALS patient said of the viral phenomenon: “It’s so simple, but to us, it’s a miracle”. An influx of donations has been welcome evidence of the newfound trend, but others consider the challenge’s less tangible effects equally valuable; Kathy Lahey, director of the Upstate New York Chapter of the ALS Association, said: “We’ve been waiting for this for so long. The disease that no one talked about is finally out there”. Even if the donations resulting from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge have a minimal impact on revealing a cure for the neurodegenerative illness, many consider the awareness the challenge has brought significant in and of itself. Even if $100 or $1 million cannot halt an ALS patient’s suffering, the nationwide recognition and support can bring them and family members relief, and most importantly, hope.

If you would like to donate to support ALS research, click here.

Click the video below to watch Mark Zuckerberg get drenched for ALS research (he donated, too).


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