If you’ve spent any time on social media lately, you’ve probably seen it — videos of people dumping buckets of ice water on their heads. The footage is an example of “going viral” at its best, with each video spawning several more as people challenge their friends and family to do the same. And while Summit County may be remote in some people’s books, it is in no way immune to the trends of the Internet age.
SPOTLIGHT ON ALS
ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and is a progressive degenerative disease that attacks nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain. This affects voluntary muscle movement and may eventually lead to paralysis. There is currently no cure for ALS.
It is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the famous New York Yankees baseball player who died from it in 1941.
According to the ALS Association, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to education, raising awareness and creating funding for research related to the disease, the “ice bucket challenge” trend was initiated by Pete Frates, a former Division 1 college baseball athlete in Massachusetts. Diagnosed with ALS two years ago at age 27, Frates has been active in raising awareness ever since.
The challenge works to both raise funds and raise awareness through visibility. Though the rules vary depending on where you look, the general idea is this — a person is nominated to take the ice bucket challenge and has 24 hours to either donate $100 to an ALS-related organization, or dump a bucket of ice water onto their head and donate only $10. They then get to nominate others, usually about three, to do it as well, and so it spreads.
The list of celebrities and famous names taking on the challenge and nominating each other grows every day, from Hollywood (Oprah, Charlie Sheen) to the music world (Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake) to politics (George W. Bush, Mitt Romney).
SOAKED IN SUMMIT
While there’s no doubt that individuals throughout Summit County have been participating, recently larger groups, organizations and businesses have jumped in as well.
“It’s just spreading fast and furious in Summit County,” said Åsa Armstrong, development officer of the Bristlecone Foundation.
Four of the Bristlecone staff members stood outside in silly hats and goggles on Friday, Aug. 22 to dump buckets of water over their own heads.
“We wanted it to be specific to Bristlecone Health Services, so we donated in honor of ALS patients that we have cared for and currently are caring for, because we know what a difficult journey they’re going through and it was a way for us to make it more local,” said Armstrong.
Those at Bristlecone were challenge by the Summit County Community Care Clinic. The clinic received its nomination last week from the Caring for Colorado Foundation in honor of Safety Net Clinic Week.
“As a fundraiser myself, this campaign is brilliant,” said Sarah Vaine, chief executive officer of the care clinic. “Anything like that that makes people want to learn more about a problem or a cause and then give to it is remarkable.”
She admitted that she hadn’t known a lot about ALS before the challenge, and that it inspired her to learn more.
“Our whole team learned more about it and learned that we have a number of people in our clinic family that have been impacted by ALS and that was very important for us to know that and hear what it’s like to have a loved one suffering from it,” she said.
After being doused by the ice-cold water, the clinic nominated the Bristlecone Foundation, The Summit Foundation and The Summit Medical Center Foundation. Bristlecone, in turn, nominated the Summit Daily News, Krystal 93 radio station and the Rotary Club of Summit County. Each water dump was accompanied by a donation to ALS.
“I’m willing to get the big buckets,” said Roman Moore of Krystal 93, of his plans to answer the challenge. “The more people are aware of it, … I think that’s all good.”
BY THE NUMBERS
In less than two months, the ALS Association has reported that donations have reached record numbers. On Monday, Aug. 25, the organization reported that it had received $79.7 million in donations compared to $2.5 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to Aug. 25). The donations came in from existing donors as well as 1.7 million new donors.
“The ALS Association is thankful for the incredible generosity and spirit of the thousands of people who have accepted the Ice Bucket Challenge,” Barbara Newhouse, president and CEO of the ALS Association, stated in a press release. “These dollars will make a difference in propelling The Association’s three-prong mission.”
Those prongs are raising awareness of ALS, leading and collaborating on global research and providing services to ALS patients and their families.
Donations related to the ice bucket challenge don’t need to go through the ALS Association necessarily. Other organizations involved with ALS include Compassionate Care ALS, Project ALS and the ALS Therapy Development Institute.