The Ice Bucket Challenge: Freezing ALS with Awareness and Support  

By Markus Weinzinger

Upon seeing the title, one’s mind may already be filled with images of people dumping themselves with a deluge of ice water. The challenge has evolved into short Vines, intricate ice water-dumping contraptions, and whole groups of people getting soaked simultaneously. All these outrageous acts of awareness occur in the name of announcing and possibly curing ALS. However, there is more than this trending pop culture reveals.

The disease that started it all is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The ALS Association describes the disease as “a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.” The result is involuntary muscle spasms that occur because these nerves control those specific areas.

The association reports that just over 5,600 people are diagnosed with the disease each year, and as many as six times that number currently have the disease. Even more alarming is the fact that the life expectancy is about two to five years after diagnosis. Only a small percent survive to twenty years. On the bright side, the disease is not contagious and affects only two people out of a hundred thousand.

Research and developing a cure for a disease costs money. When fundraising becomes a challenge, awareness is a cheaper alternative. The Ice Bucket Challenge became a successful means to support efforts against ALS. The challenge goes like this: a person is nominated to take the challenge. The person then has the option to donate a certain amount to the ALS Association or dump a bucketful of ice water on their head within the next twenty-four hours. After the person has taken the challenge, he or she then gets to nominate another person, or group of people. The genius is that the challenge can be simple to do, and the bandwagon effect takes off.  

At the same time, more people become familiar with the disease and forever associate it with the challenge.

A lot of money has been raised to support ALS research and awareness, but people wonder whether their money is being used wisely. According to financial statements published by the ALS Association, as much as three million dollars has been used for fundraising. The rest is being used for research grants, patient and community services, public and professional education, and administration.

I had the opportunity to interview TCP staff and students who participated in the challenge. I asked of their thoughts on the Ice Bucket Challenge’s effect on ALS awareness. “I think it’s helped by showing awareness for the disease they didn’t previously know, and the challenge itself is a fun way to show support, and more affordable than donating,” replied Mr. Halvorson.

Taylor Dalton, manager of the soccer team, shared his remarks: “I think it’s a success because the ice being dumped on you makes it feel like a person with ALS: a paralyzing feeling. It helps people understand the disease and raise awareness.”

A member of the Denobis staff, Patricia Azevedo, gave further insight: “I think it’s a good thing to have your friends do and pass on.”

The Ice Bucket Challenge continues on. The spectrum of its supporters range from well-known celebrities to local friends. It will not be long until most of the world has had its share of support to cool the alarm of ALS.

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