Taking the ALS ice bucket challenge

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, August 27, 2014

If you’ve been anywhere near a computer for the past few weeks, then you’ll know what I’m referring to when I talk about the ALS ice bucket challenge.
It’s an internet phenomenon that has people all over the world uploading videos of themselves dumping buckets of ice water on their heads and naming three people to whom the challenge is passed. When challenged, a person has 24 hours to make a video and donate $10 to the ALS Association or they can skip the water dump and donate $100.
It looks like silly fun, and there are many versions with famous people and many more with just regular people like yours truly. Yes, I dumped ice water on my head and posted it on my Facebook page. Was I embarrassed? Not even a little. Why? Because it’s for a very good cause.
The challenge began with Boston baseball player Pete Frates who at 27 was diagnosed with ALS in 2012 (one of only 30,000 Americans who have the disease). Frates appeared before the Food and Drug Administration asking for more attention to ALS and more action. Now, he can no longer walk or speak and he eats through a feeding tube.
In July, one of Frates’ friends started the ice bucket challenge to raise awareness of ALS. Frates communicated through his computer to challenge others. Soon, athletes all over Boston were taking the challenge, and it quickly spread across the country. In less than a month, it had gone viral and become a fundraising engine. Frates himself took the challenge, sitting motionless in his wheelchair while his wife poured ice water over him.
ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (and is sometimes also called Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by muscle spasticity, rapidly progressive weakness, difficulty in speaking, swallowing, and eventually breathing. Most ALS patients die within three to five years of the onset of symptoms and only 4% survive longer than ten years.
The cause is unknown. There is one FDA-approved drug for treatment which only has a modest effect on survival. There is no cure.
Within a month of the first challenge, 42 million dollars was raised for the ALS Association for research and advocacy. Videos of ALS patients thanking people for shining the spotlight on the disease they struggle with daily began to appear.
Just like in anything else, naysayers complained. Their gripe: it wastes water. Many argue that water isn’t being wasted but used to raise awareness and money for a good cause. Some have answered the claim of waste by dumping buckets of cash instead. I watched one friend repurpose her water by dumping it over her head while standing among houseplants placed strategically around her feet.
The list of famous faces being doused with ice water is long. I liked Mark Wahlberg’s video because he stood with his wife and three children, each of whom called out three more friends to take the challenge. (Yes, I also like it because Marky Mark removed his shirt, okay?) Charlie Sheen dumped the $10,000 he was donating and challenged three more friends to do the same. George W. Bush declared it “unpresidential” until Laura Bush doused him. Bill Clinton was among those he challenged.
The first local celebrity I watched dump water on herself for the cause was Pam Stone. I admire Ms. Stone for her work as a comedian, actor and writer, and now as a leader in our local ice bucket phenomenon.
I was challenged by Chris Tinkler who had been challenged by his son, Jack. I included local good sport, Lavin Cuddihee, in my list of three people whom I challenged, and he doused himself the following day in the plaza outside the Polk County Film Initiative.
After being challenged by ice water recipient John Cash who owns Nature’s Storehouse, Andy Millard sat on a bench outside Millard and Company at the Tryon Depot and trusted his coworkers standing behind him to only use “a few cubes” of ice and “perhaps a cup” of water before they emptied a huge cooler over his head.
I wasn’t surprised to see the challenge travel quickly through Tryon. We have an extremely generous community, evidenced by all the non-profits who do their good work via donations.
Our community also has friends and family members who have suffered with ALS. One Tryon friend confided in me ALS took his father and grandfather.
If you haven’t been challenged, consider it done. I’m asking all my readers to donate and share this column with friends. You can skip the ice water if you’d like, but also feel free to join us and post your videos on the internet. It’s actually quite fun. Cold, yes, but then you feel pretty good afterwards.
– Susan McNabb

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