The ice-bucket challenge that became a certified internet thing last week for those residing at the nexus of celebrity and sport stardom as well as for commoners has had the intended effect: It has resulted in “unprecedented” contributions to the ALS Association and putting a modern face on Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The stunt, for those living under a rock, consists of having someone dump a bucket of ice water over one’s head and then challenging someone else to do the same thing. That person can do so or contribute $100 to the ALS Association which is raising awareness of and funds for research into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
After a week of viral videos of everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Ethel Kennedy to Justin Timberlake to Chris Pratt to Ronaldo (who used the occasion to also sell underwear) to LeBron James to Peyton Manning to the New England Patriots doing the stunt, the ALS Association announced Sunday that it has received $13.3 million, an increase from $1.7 million given over the saem period (July 29–Aug. 17) a year ago. That translates to 259,505 new donors, according to ALS Association President and CEO Barbara J. Newhouse.
“I know that many people are wondering what the ALS Association is going to do with these donations, and my answer is this: invest prudently in helping people with ALS and their families and caregivers in the battle against the disease, while resolutely pursuing all avenues to extend, improve and ultimately save lives,” Newhouse said on the ALS Web site.
The progressive neurodegenerative disease, for which there is no cure, became widely known when it forced the retirement of Gehrig, the New York Yankees’ Iron Man, 75 years ago in July. Gehrig’s speech still resonates throughout baseball all these years later. Recently, battles against it waged by former NFL players Steve Gleason and O.J. Brigance have put new faces on the disease. Which brings us to the ice bucket challenge.
Its origins are most closely linked to Pete Frates, a former Boston College baseball player who can no longer speak, walk or move because of the disease. Frates, according to the Boston Globe, was diagnosed with the disease in 2012 and keeps a poster of Gehrig, who “inspires me every day,” on his wall. Frates, who is expecting his first child next month, was profiled in the Globe:
He got the idea for the Ice Bucket Challenge from another young man who suffers from the disease, Patrick Quinn, who lives in Yonkers, N.Y. Frates and Quinn found each other online, and when Quinn comes to Boston for medical treatments, he stops and visits Frates, who started his own Challenge on July 29. It has since exploded on social media.
“Since Pete was diagnosed, he knew he was going to take part in changing the path of this disease,” says his wife. “It’s misunderstood — how quickly it progresses, how there’s no cure, how we still don’t know what causes it.”
Frates, 29, is aware that a cure isn’t likely to save him.
“I want the 100th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s speech to be a celebration of a courageous man who became the poster boy for a disease with a cure,” he wrote (via the Globe), “not a cruel reminder of how nothing has changed in a century.”