People around the Country Have Als Challenge Down Cold

By North, Campbell | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), August 14, 2014 | Go to article overview

People around the Country Have Als Challenge Down Cold


North, Campbell, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


On Wednesday night, Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu took the challenge after practice. Last week, Sidney Crosby did it using snow, and the day after, Marc-Andre Fleury did it in a banana costume.

It seems that everyone, from Jimmy Fallon to Ethel Kennedy, is doing it and taking part in the ice bucket challenge, which has erupted in a national effort to spread awareness and raise funds for the ALS Association, the organization leading the effort to find a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Participants in the ice bucket challenge post videos or a photo of themselves being drenched with ice water and then nominate three other people to do the same, spreading awareness in a chain reaction. Those who forgo the ice bath are asked to donate to an ALS organization instead.

Spurred on by social media, the response to the challenge has caused a tidal wave of awareness and money. In the two-week period since the idea truly took off on July 29, the national ALS Association has received $5.7 million in donations, compared with the $1.2 million it received during the same period last year. It also accumulated 106,955 new donors in that same time span.

"This challenge has been very successful, not just in terms of financial and research support, but also for families and patients dealing with the disease, letting them know they're not alone," said Sasa Zivkovic, associate professor of neurology at the University of Pittsburgh.

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that deteriorates the brain's ability to control muscle movement. The disease often inhibits muscles used for speaking, eating, and breathing, leading to complete paralysis and eventually death. There is no cure for ALS.

The local support for the challenge started Aug. 6, when Penguins forward Craig Adams and his family challenged teammates Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin.

"After Craig Adams and his family did the challenge, a ton of people in the community participated and it started to take off in Pittsburgh," said Merritt Speir, executive director of the Western Pennsylvania chapter of the ALS Association. …

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