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Ice Bucket Challenge Turns Hot Light on ALS

This viral movement is bringing attention and money to the disease

By Jill Yanish

There’s a good chance that you’ve seen people posting videos on social media of themselves dumping ice water over their heads, including celebrities ranging from Oprah to Bill Gates to Chris Pratt.
While this stunt may initially catch you as silly (and chilly), the “ice bucket challenge” is a campaign to spread awareness about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

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And it has done so remarkably successfully. As of today, the ALS Association has received $15.6 million through the challenge. That amount drastically surpassed the $1.8 million in donations raised during the same period last year.  
Here’s how it works: You dump a bucket of ice water on yourself, post the video on social media and nominate three others to take the challenge. The nominees then have 24 hours to also douse themselves, or else they must donate money to an ALS charity. (You can, of course, take the challenge and also make an ALS contribution, as many have.)
“It’s been tremendous. It’s opening up new doors for organizations fighting to bring awareness to ALS,” says Carrie Munk, the chief communications and marketing officer at the ALS Association. The ALS Association first saw the spike in donations on July 29, Munk says, and the ALS Association continues to collect money. To date, more than 300,000 new donors have donated to the group.
The ice bucket challenge started when former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates, who was diagnosed with ALS, began posting about his disease and challenging teammates. It has since taken social media by (ice) storm.
ALS, the Disease With No Cure
While this viral challenge has increased donations to charities, Munk says, it has also shed light on ALS, a disease that people generally know little about.
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The motor neurons die, and the brain loses its ability to control muscle movement, often causing total paralysis in the later stages of the disease.

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With no cure or treatment, the life expectancy of an ALS patient averages two to five years from the time of diagnosis.
Will You Accept the Challenge?
So if you get challenged, are you going to dump the bucket of ice over your head or donate to a charity? Or both?
Check out these videos of Steven Spielberg, Matt Lauer and Oprah Winfrey bravely accepting the ALS ice bucket challenge:

Jill Yanishwas formerly the associate editor for Next Avenue.  She earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University and has written for various Twin Cities publications. Read More
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