The ice bucket challenge to help raise money and awareness for ALS has gone viral, and the results are unlike any the supporters of finding a cure for the disease have ever seen.
“It’s unprecedented,” says Chapel Hillian Vivian Connell who was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) earlier this year. “I think that it’s undeniably raising the name recognition of the disease, and if only a portion of those people actually learn more about it, that’s a huge improvement.”
ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease as it’s commonly known, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks the spinal cord and nerve cells of the brain.
Public figures nationally have been taking the challenge, from ESPN television anchors to professional athletes, late night talk show hosts to everyday individuals. In Chapel Hill, Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, UNC Chancellor Carol Folt, men’s basketball head coach Roy Williams, and a host of others have participated.
Friday morning, Connell’s husband and two children released videos of their participation of the challenge.
“For me, and for my two law school classmates who both had parents diagnosed within two or three months of my diagnosis…it’s extremely encouraging,” Connell says. “It’s extremely encouraging, and it gives you a feeling of empowerment when, in fact, you are medically and clinically helpless.”
Her husband, Paul, is the play-by-play voice for high school football and basketball and UNC women’s and men’s soccer on WCHL. He is self-employed with PMC Brand Management and says he’s worked casually with a few campaigns for ALS over the years.
He says he’s seen the ice bucket challenge raise the awareness level to the highest it’s been in 75 years since Gehrig gave the memorable speech in Yankee Stadium. He adds that he’s been told millions of dollars have gone to organizations, which are directly responsible for awareness and research, because of the challenge.
The ALS Association reported that as of Monday, $15.6 million had been raised through the ice bucket challenge. In the same time frame last year, the organization had raised only $1.8 million.
And Connell says the timing couldn’t be any better.
“The stem cell trials that are going on are the most exciting thing in ALS ever,” Connell says.
The stem cell research involves drilling holes into the spinal column and injecting undifferentiated stem cells—cells which have not been formatted for a specific duty—in the hopes that they will repair the motor neurons that are dying.
Of course the research for the procedure and the procedure itself are expensive, but with nearly $16 million and counting, great strides could be made.
To see videos of many local figures taking the ice bucket challenge, click here.
To donate to the ALS Association, click here.