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How The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Became a Phenomenon

John Mooney

Thursday, August 21, 2014 • 11:48pm

SCOTCH PLAINS-FANWOOD, NJ -- Awareness of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) had long been eclipsed by physical ailments, such as various cancers and heart disease, until a left-handed slugger contracted the disease and could no longer play baseball. 

ALS, often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," has been brought to the nation's collective forefront by the friends of former Boston College captain Pete Frates, who inspired the Ice Bucket Challenge phenomenon.  ESPN told Frates' story and how athletes, including Peyton Manning and Sydney Crosby, and celebrities such as Justin Timberlake, propelled the campaign in this seven-minute video feature.  Pete's mission to Strike Out ALS has led to the most successful ALS fundraising and awareness campaign since Lou Gehrig's famous "Luckiest Man" speech at Yankee Stadium 75 years ago this summer.

So why have people been dumping buckets of water over their heads and videotaping it for YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter?  Fanwood resident Raul Vega was inspired not only because of social media, but also by a family connection.

"My grandmother was diagnosed with ALS early this year and she passed away on July 4th," Vega said.  "This (video) is for her and all who suffer from the disease."

Local businesses have gotten into the act, including Nick's Pizza, which posted this video on its Instagram account: http://instagram.com/p/rpvzo2FF9j/?modal=true

As of Thursday, August 21, the ALS Association has received $41.8 million in donations compared to $2.1 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 21). The donations came from existing donors, as well as 739,275 new donors, an overwhelming majority of them participating in the Ice Bucket Challenge.

What if you simply can't motivate yourself to dump a gallon of cold water over your head?  Here's the link to the ALS Association's donation page.  The ALS Association is the only national non-profit organization fighting Lou Gehrig’s Disease on every front.  By leading the way in global research, providing assistance for people with ALS through a nationwide network of chapters.

Five Facts About ALS:

1.       Ninety percent of patients with adult-onset ALS have no family history of the disease

2.       ALS is more common in men and white people

3.       Symptoms are not sudden. In fact, they may be so subtle at first that they often go unnoticed

4.       Although the disease doesn’t affect a person’s intelligence, people with ALS may suffer from depression or lapses of memory

5.       There is no cure, more research is needed

 (source: ABC News)

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