ALS roots predate Ice Bucket Challenge

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Karen Shilyan, staff writer

Celine Rezvani, staff writer

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease,  incapacitates a person’s ability to control or initiate muscle movement. As this movement is gradually lost, the victim loses their power to regulate his or her breathing, swallowing and speaking. The most common of the five motor neuron diseases, ALS currently affects more than 30,000 Americans and over 5,600 Americans are diagnosed each year. The disease runs its course rapidly; according to the ALS Association, the average survival time from diagnosis to death is a mere 39 months.

History teacher Steve Taylor prepares his students for the Ice Bucket Challenge.  Photo by: Samantha Harouni
History teacher Steve Taylor prepares his students for the Ice Bucket Challenge. Photo by: Samantha Harouni

Although the disease was first discovered and researched in the 1850s, it wasn’t widely acknowledged until nearly a century later. In 1939, American professional baseball player Lou Gehrig brought the paralyzing disease to national attention when his diagnosis was confirmed. The world was shaken as this youthful and powerful athlete was forced to retire, and was progressively torn apart by the disease. Although ALS is a serious disease, funding and support have been scarce over the years.

Physiology teacher Sue Yovetich makes an effort to educate her students on the symptoms and characteristics of the disease every year.

“I think the hard thing is many people don’t know about [ALS] in comparison to diseases like cancer or heart disease. I think it’s important that people are aware of the symptoms or the signs, [as] any sort of information they can collect for preventive mechanisms is good,” Yovetich said.

Students and history teacher Steve Taylor spread awareness for ALS by completing the Ice Bucket Challenge. Photo by: Samantha Harouni
Students and history teacher Steve Taylor spread awareness for ALS by completing the Ice Bucket Challenge. Photo by: Samantha Harouni

Athletes, celebrities and political figures across the nation are partaking in the fundraising agent known as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Former Boston College baseball captain Pete Frates, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2012 at the age of 27, began challenging friends to donate to ALS or experience the cold sensation of pouring a bucket of ice water over their heads just last month. The action of pouring ice water over the head is said to symbolize the numbness and loss of muscle control with which ALS patients cope. Within a month, the stunt went viral. The recent trend of completing the Ice Bucket Challenge on social media has provided $94.3 million in funds to the ALS Association, as of 27, compared to the $2.7 million in the same two-week period last year.

“The ALS Association has been given a great deal of money and with that comes tremendous responsibility,” said Barbara Newhouse, President and CEO of The ALS Association. “We are absolutely committed to transparency and will be communicating with the ALS community, our donors, the media and the public about progress to invest these dollars wisely in areas that will have maximum impact on the fight against this devastating disease.”

To learn more about the history of the Ice Bucket Challenge in connection with baseball player Pete Frates, click here.

 

To read staff writer Eleanor Bogart-Stuart’s opinion of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, click here.

To watch Normans performing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, click here.

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