ALS Challenge Sweeping The Nation

Caitlin Husted, Senior Editor

Over the past month, eager participants in the ALS ice bucket challenge have captured the nation’s attention, along with bombarding social media news feeds.

Although many have flocked to help the cause, many are unaware of what the challenge is actually supporting.

ALS, also known as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is often referenced as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. ALS, damages motor neurons—nerve cells that control muscle movement—in the brain and spinal cord. The upper motor neurons send messages from the brain to the spinal cord, and the lower motor neurons send messages from the spinal cord to the muscles. These two combined are an important part of the body’s neuromuscular system, which enables human’s bodies to move.

Daily activities such as breathing, walking, running and even lifting objects are all controlled by the neuromuscular system. When that system is damaged, a person begins to lose their ability to control and move their muscles.

According to the ALS Association website, “When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.”

In the United States, a little over 5,600 people are diagnosed with ALS each year, which is around 15 new cases a day. Although most people who develop ALS are between the ages of 40 and 70—with an average age of 55 at the time of diagnosis—people have been known to be diagnosed in their 20s and 30s.

To watch a loved one slowly lose their ability to move, to be independent, to be themselves, is devastating for anyone. After knowing what the disease entails for those effected, people can’t help but donate their money to help put an end to such a horrifying disease.

However, some are skeptical about what the challenge truly represents.

“I have always disliked the competitive nature of such ‘challenges’ especially since it is typically associated with dangerous things,” junior political science and piano performance double major Jared Rixstine said. “Thus, while I think it is important to raise awareness about diseases such as ALS, I think that the ice bucket challenge has become more of a symbol than an actual awareness campaign.”

Millikin University’s English professor Dr. Michael George is also weary of the ice bucket challenge and skeptical as to where the donations end up, so he put his own spin on the challenge.

“I’m always skeptical about charitable organizations,” George said. “I’ve had friends at organizations . . . and [they] have told me where the finances actually go.”

With that in mind, George decided to donate to the Humane Society of Decatur and Macon County. He wanted to give back to the place where his family got their first dog, and somewhere locally, that does great work and could use donations.

“ALS had already gotten [enough],” George said. “I figured the pets could get some.”

And the ALS Association has received plenty of money from eager participants of the ice bucket challenge.

According to an article from Forbes.com, in the time that the ALS ice bucket challenge has been active, it has raised over $100 million.

The article states, “That’s a 3,500 percent increase from the $2.8 million that the ALS Association raised during the same time period last year. More than three million people have donated, the association says.”

This kind of increase in donations cannot be ignored.

“ALS is a horrifying disease and if it does lead to good treatment options or a cure then it’s worth it,” George said. “It’s another disease that we don’t have to worry about.”

Even if the ALS ice bucket challenge has become more of a thing to do so you can post it on Facebook rather than donating money, its efforts are paying off. It’s allowing ALS patients a new sense of hope, that just maybe, a cure will be found in time to make a difference in their lives.