Many comedians, musicians and politicians, across the United States share two things in common: the suffix –ians and the fact that they are participating in an event that struck nation full throttle, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Of course, these men and women are not the only ones taking part in the event, as people’s social media pages are simply full of their friends pouring ice on their heads.
What is ALS?
Before covering the basics of the challenge, it is imperative to first discuss what exactly Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is. According to the ALS Association, it is a “progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.” As the nerve cells, or neurons, die, the brain loses its ability to initiate and control the body’s muscles. Over time, many patients with ALS become paralyzed.
The disease is commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Gehrig was an early 1900s New York Yankees first baseman. He was a notable ballplayer and was later referred to as "The Iron Horse" due to this persistence in playing 2,130 consecutive games. At the height of the 1938 season, Gehrig began reporting physical limitations such as movement deterioration. In June 1939, Gehrig was diagnosed with ALS, where he was given only a few years left to live, and later died in 1941. However, his essence lives on to this day in his durability to fight onwards.
Cool and Inspring
The origin of dumping ice on one’s head to raise awareness for ALS is unclear but is attributed to many people. Many attribute it to 2007 Boston College graduate Peter Frates. He is a former Division 1 athlete who was the captain of the BC baseball team his senior year. In March of 2012, Frates was diagnosed with ALS after some motor difficulty. Today, he can neither walk nor talk.
In late July, Frates learned of the challenge from friend Pat Quinn who is also battling ALS. In essence, Quinn nominated Frates to take the challenge. However, due to his lack of mobility, and his statement that “ice water and ALS are a bad mix,” he instead moved his head to the rhythm of Vanilla Ice’s hit song, "Ice Ice Baby." On August 14 however, Frates joined Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell, third baseman Will Middlebrooks and members of the Frates family went to Fenway Park, and filmed themselves pouring ice on one another’s heads.
The Ice Bucket Challenge is quite simple, despite the narrow time window in which to do it. In the video, one must first and foremost thank the person who nominated them. The polite statement at the start of the video indicates gratitude for being able to take part in the experience and spreading the news to another circle of friends. The nominee then declares three (or more) people who they think should partake in the challenge giving themselves 24 hours to either donate or douse themselves with bone-chilling water. Lastly, the nominee themself or a cohort pours the bucket of ice on the nominee’s head. If the video is not posted, one must donate $100 to the ALS Association.
There are many variations of the challenge. The method detailed above either raises awareness by dumping ice on one’s head, or raises awareness and donates money. Other methods detail that the nominees donate either way, but a lesser amount when they actually do the challenge, and the full $100 when they don’t do the challenge.
Today, there are over 30,000 Americans that have been diagnosed with ALS. Over these past three weeks that the Ice Bucket Challenge has been in circulation, the ALS Association has raised over $15 million. That is 15 million dollars in 20 days. On average, each day averages $750,000. That’s a lot of money, and it is all going to use in helping researchers and scientists find a cure.
More and more people are participating in the challenge and donating money. In due time, we will see just how big of an impact pouring ice on one’s head has made and how much money was raised.
A Personal Touch
At first glance, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is analogous to those chain emails from years ago that promised you bad luck if you didn’t forward the message. Although it might seem fun to pour ice on yourself or another person, the challenge also emanates seriousness.
For me, doing the challenge was personal. On December 24, 2003, my grandfather on my father’s side passed away from ALS. Over the past 11 years, my family has donated money to the ALS foundation. So, I took this opportunity to raise awareness of the disease and donate money in memory of my grandfather.
The Ice Bucket Challenge is only one of many ways in which you can donate. On November 8, the city of Addison will host a few-mile trek called the Walk to Defeat ALS. Much further away, hundreds of people bike from Newton, Mass. to Greenwich, Conn., in the ALS Tri-State Trek, a journey that my uncle takes part in on a yearly basis. This past year, he and his team raised over $35,000. All the teams combined raised over $718,000 for the ALS Therapy Development Institute, one of many research companies helping to find a cure.