If you spend much time on the Internet, you’ll probably remember the Ice Bucket Challenge, one of the biggest viral video trends of 2014. Before the summer was over, nearly every personality, blogger, and prominent celebrity with an Internet presence had participated. The premise was simple: dump a bucket of ice water on your head in the name of promoting awareness of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), and encourage donations to help fund the research necessary to beat the degenerative disease for good.
What really made the challenge catch on was that Ice Bucket participants finished by nominating three others to take the challenge, or forfeit and make a donation to ALS research. Many people did both. When all was said and done, over $115 million dollars were donated in the name of ALS.
In the time since, that money has been put to good use. The ALS Association has already committed to dozens of large research grants, bringing the world one step closer to understanding and curing ALS. Equally important, nearly a third of the money raised has been dedicated directly to treatment centers and community support for people who suffer from ALS. To put it simply, the ALS Association is advancing the battle against ALS on all fronts.
Ice Bucket Critics
For all it achieved, there have been naysayers of the Ice Bucket Challenge, even years later. After watching video after video of giggling participants dousing themselves in water, it is understandable how some people would think that the ALS Foundation’s challenge may have partially trivialized ALS in the eyes of the public.
Whether there are merits to that criticism or not, everyone can agree that the lighthearted nature of the Ice Bucket Challenge is a stark contrast to the horror of living with ALS. Most people who suffer from ALS will only survive three to five years, as they suffer gradually increasing muscle weakness and fatigue, ultimately leading to paralysis and death.
The Reality of ALS
Released earlier this year, Gleason is a documentary that follows the story of former New Orleans Saints star player, Steve Gleason. The story follows the onset of ALS in the body of a public figure and world class athlete, offering an intimate and honest look at the reality of living with a debilitating death sentence, and how it affects them and their loved ones in equal measure.
While Gleason himself may be understandably discouraged by his prognosis, there’s an underlying message of hope to be found in a young man who uses his position to help the next generation of ALS patients have a better shot at life. Understanding the realities of what these people and their family face can only redouble your commitment to beating ALS.
Hope for a Cure
Breakthroughs in medical research are always happening. Researchers at Oregon State University recently found a treatment for ALS in mice, allowing them to halt the progression of the disease entirely. Even though it’s not known if the same treatment will be applicable to humans, clinical trials are underway and the success in mice may give researchers the insight they need to make further progress. We may be years from developing better treatment options for ALS, but there’s still abundant hope to be found in the hearts of the people who donated so generously towards ALS research, and in the research that might one day help us develop a cure.