Outpouring of Support for ALS

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Your friends have done it. Your coworkers have done it. Urban Meyer did it. So did Martha Stewart. Matt Damon did it with water from a toilet. Charlie Sheen did it with a bucketful of cash.

Everyone’s doing it, and for once, “it” is a good thing – the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Since early this past summer, participants in the Ice Bucket Challenge have videotaped themselves dumping ice water over their heads in an effort to promote awareness and raise money for ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a progressive neurodegenerative illness that currently has no cure. But with help from a viral phenomenon on social media, the ALS Association is hoping to change that. In just a few months, the challenge has created 2.1 million new donors and raised a staggering $94.3 million, compared to $2.7 million during the same time period in 2013.

“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Marlin Seymour, executive director of the Central and Southern Ohio Chapter of the ALS Association. “It’s been a wonderful thing to experience.”

Locally, ALS fundraising has more than doubled over the past month compared to last year, Seymour said, and the ALS is working to engage with first-time donors to build on the awareness created by the challenge. But even with a massive viral campaign, the need to maintain momentum is imperative. Seymour said that unlike most diseases, there has been little advancement into finding a cure; the average patient lives just two to five years.

“The prognosis for someone who’s diagnosed is the same as it was for Lou Gehrig,” she said of the baseball star who became ALS’s namesake after he was diagnosed in 1939.

Luckily, the timing couldn’t be better for the Central Ohio chapter, as its three biggest annual fundraising events are approaching, including the Columbus Walk to Defeat ALS on September 21 at Columbus Commons. Those seeking to volunteer at the event, donate, or learn more about ALS and the Ice Bucket Challenge should visit the website www.alsohio.org. Seymour also stressed the importance of patients registering with the ALS Association via the website because local chapters offer free support services.

The walk will provide a fitting end to a record summer that may be crucial to finally finding a cure. “ALS has never got this kind of attention. Ever,” Seymour said. “We are very grateful.”

 

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