‘Ice Bucket’ takes on deadly disease

FAIRMONT – The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has flooded social media sites the last couple of weeks.

To make a challenge, an individual pours a container of ice water over their head after explaining what they are doing, which is to raise awareness and money to support the fight against ALS. They then challenge three other people to do the same thing within 24 hours.

If you are challenged and follow through with the icy shower, you donate $10 to the ALS Association. If you opt out of the dare, you are supposed to donate $100.

According to the ALS Association’s website, more than $53 million has been raised so far this year, compared to slightly more than $2 million for the same time period a year ago.

This astoundingly successful advocacy has done more than raise funds; it also has elevated awareness about ALS.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is more commonly called ALS. It’s also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the New York Yankee who brought international attention to the disease. Gehrig abruptly retired from baseball at the age of 36 when he was diagnosed with ALS. He died in 1941, just days before his 38th birthday.

ALS is a motor immune disease that begins with weakness or muscle atrophy, difficulty swallowing or stiffness. Eventually, a person with ALS will lose the ability to walk, use their arms and hands, and their ability to speak or swallow.

As many as 30,000 Americans may have the disease at any given time, with an additional 5,600 diagnosed each year.

Most die within three to five years. However, there are exceptions like noted physicist Stephen Hawking, who has lived with ALS for more than 50 years.

ALS transcends all races and ethnic backgrounds. There is no known cure.