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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

It’s no joke: The ice bucket challenge is heating up fundraising for ALS research

When the summer heat and humidity become unbearable, people tend to find creative ways to cool off. Maybe it’s grabbing an ice cream, jumping in a pool or sitting in front of a fan. Or maybe it’s dumping a bucket of ice water over your head.

This summer, thousands of people are doing just that – only these participants of the now popular ice-bucket-challenge are cooling off to raise awareness for ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. ...

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When the summer heat and humidity become unbearable, people tend to find creative ways to cool off. Maybe it’s grabbing an ice cream, jumping in a pool or sitting in front of a fan. Or maybe it’s dumping a bucket of ice water over your head.

This summer, thousands of people are doing just that – only these participants of the now popular ice-bucket-challenge are cooling off to raise awareness for ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Despite the ice bucket challenge’s popularity on social media, some have started to wonder whether or not the challenge is actually helping raise funds for ALS research.

The ice bucket challenge is, in fact, heating up fundraising.

Nationally, donations in the past two weeks have totaled about $1.35 million. During the same two-week period last year, donations were about $22,000, which is an unheard of increase, according to Amy Coyne, the fundraising and community relations manager of the ALS Northern New England branch.

Donations for the Northern New England chapter are up 59 percent from this time last year, Coyne said.

Coyne believes the ice bucket challenge has been so prominent and successful in New England because of a man named Pete Frates.

Frates, a former Boston College baseball player, was diagnosed with ALS in 2012 and began the ice bucket challenge this summer in an attempt to raise awareness for the disease. Since that time, thousands of people have been taking the challenge and donating to ALSA.

“It’s tremendous... It’s making a huge difference,” Coyne said.

Meanwhile, the ice bucket challenge continues to be a social media phenomenon, with videos of people dousing themselves in ice water, and nominating others to do the same, popping up all over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Participants of the challenge use the tag, #IceBucketChallenge, to bring attention to ALS on different social media sites. At its base, the challenge is rather simple; people take a video of themselves dumping a bucket of ice water over their heads then challenge friends, family members and co-workers to do the same in the next 24 hours or make a donation to the ALSA.

The ice bucket challenge has claimed everyone from Martha Stewart to NH Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Horn. Even President Obama has been called out to accept the challenge and get cold and wet for ALS awareness.

According to the ALS Association (ALSA), Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is a neurodegenerative disease, which affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The progressive degeneration of these neurons eventually leads to their death. When these neurons die, the brain loses the ability to initiate and control muscle movements. This is why one symptom of Lou Gehrig’s Disease is muscular weakness and atrophy. Although there is currently no cure for ALS, scientists are researching the disease to better understand its causes. This is where the ice bucket challenge comes in: Thousands of people pouring ice water over their heads in the name of ALS awareness and donating money to the organization.

The Northern New England branch of the ALSA holds several walks each year in order to raise awareness for ALS. Their next walk is on Sunday, October 5, at Livingston Park in Manchester.

To make a donation for ALS research, visit www.alsa.org. To donate to the Northern New England branch of the ALS Association or to sign up for their ALS walk in October, visit webnne.alsa.org.

See related story: Social media gimmick raising money for ALS, a splashing success

Emily Kwesell can be reached at 594-6466 or ekwesell@nashuatelegraph.com.