If you’re a millennial, or if you are close to a millennial, or actually if you just have a social media presence at all, you have probably heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
The Challenge swept the nation in an attempt to increase awareness and raise money towards the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
I have to admit, I was one of the many who participated in said Ice Bucket Challenge before really understanding what ALS was and why I was doing it. When my very politically correct and opinionated brother criticized my hypocrisy, I decided to look it up.
Here’s what I found: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS, is a neurodegenerative disease that progressively affects nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain. Patients with ALS often first experience disabilities in the limbs and in speech. As time goes on, ALS gets more serious and affects total control of movement and speech. There is no cure, and the disease is eventually fatal. To make my brother proud, read this to learn more about ALS.
When Pete Frates, a former Boston College baseball team captain, was diagnosed with ALS in 2012, his friends and family took action.
Two years later, Pete’s friends and families decided to dump buckets of ice water on each other to raise awareness for his condition. At the time, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) was almost never talked about; this is largely due in part to the fact that Lou Gehrig, the baseball star this disease was named after, retired from the New York Yankees many decades ago.
Soon, many videos of the same “Ice Bucket Challenge” began to infiltrate the internet. Eventually, it got so big that celebrities were in on it too; among these were Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart, LeBron James, Justin Bieber, Jimmy Fallon, and the list goes on.
The campaign raised millions of dollars in less than two weeks, and the president of the ALS Foundation wrote in August of 2014,
“We have never seen anything like this in the history of the disease.”
That summer of 2014, Frates even decided to participate, despite being almost completely paralyzed and having to suffer the severe ice bucket cold for the rest of the day.
The huge trend left as quickly as it came, and in 2015, very little money was raised. Still, at the end of all the hype, the Ice Bucket Challenge had raised $115 million.