The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is catching up like wildfire on social media and that is great news for the organization and those suffering from the debilitating disease. Celebrities have the most notorious videos, but regular folks have also been participating and donating to the tune of $22.9 million as of Tuesday, according to CBS.
The incredible amount of money has been raised to the ALS Association in the last three weeks, by people who douse themselves (or by others) with a bucket -- sometimes a cooler -- full of ice water, hence the name Ice Bucket Challenge, one has to be brave to take it on. The donations are coming fast and furious and have increased exponentially compared to the same time last year, when the ALSA received $1.9 million.
The campaign was started by Pete Frates, 29, a former college baseball player, who was diagnosed with ALS -- also known as Lou Gehrig's disease --in 2012. In a video posted to his Facebook page on July 31, the man, who is no longer able to speak due to his condition, took the Ice Bucket Challenge to the Vanilla Ice song, "Ice Ice Baby". His message read:
"So I am nominating myself for the #icebucketchallenge cuz I can...ice water and ALS are a bad mix, so I got my friend Rob Van Winkle to help me out... Julie Frates Nicole Benson Connolly Blair Casey Will MB John Henry Feitelberg Sarah and Matt Ryan, Julian Edelman Tom Brady Toucher & Rich The Howard Stern Show you have 24 hours to dump a bucket of ice over your heads!!"
Three-weeks later his challenge is the biggest fundraising campaign in the world at the moment and shows no signs of slowing down, but how will these funds be put to use for patients and researchers? In an interview with Forbes, the spokesperson for the ALS Association, Carrie Munk said: "This amount of money...it opens up new opportunities that were previously unfathomable."
The ALS Association's CEO and president, Barbara Newhouse, said this past weekend:
"I know that many people are wondering what The ALS Association is going to do with these donations. My answer is this: invest prudently in helping people with ALS and their families and caregivers in the battle against the disease, while resolutely pursuing all avenues to extend, improve and ultimately save lives."
The terrifying disease we know as ALS, affects a relatively small number of people in the United States, two in 100,000 or about 30,000 individuals. However, it is deadly and there is no cure nor treatments and those suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease are helpless to stop their bodies from losing motor functions, even though brain activity is believed to remain mostly intact. A typical survival prognosis is three to five years.
This is why the ALSA is so excited about the results of Frates' Ice Bucket Challenge, the more awareness and donations the better, as pharmaceutical companies have little incentive to pour resources into new drugs. The spike in donations comes as researchers are making some progress in the labs.
Kevin Eggan, a faculty member at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, said that some promising possible treatments ended up not working in clinical trials, however, the money raised for ALS research via the Ice Bucket Challenge could help with treatments to extend the lifespan of those suffering from the crippling disease:
"This has potential to have a very substantial effect on what's happening in ALS," Eggan told the Harvard Gazette. Not including the social media craze over the Ice Bucket Challenge and recent donations, "this is a very exciting period for those whose lives are threatened by ALS." Eggan added.
If you wish to learn more about the Ice Bucket Challenge or donate to the ALS Association visit their website.
[Image of Bill Gates taking the Ice Bucket Challenge via Twitter]