Last year, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went from cause to phenomenon in a couple of short weeks. With our own Pete Frates driving the cause, the unknown territory of Lou Gehrig's Disease jumped to the forefront of pop culture. Even if people weren't donating, the simple act of dumping ice water on their heads helped at least start and later continue the conversation about the debilitating disease and its impact or effects.
Here we are roughly a year later. It's always tough to kickstart a movement for a second straight year. After last year's Ice Bucket Challenge felt so organic, especially as everyone got in on it, the second year can sometimes feel like something that might be forced.
But that's why we're here. We're here to make sure that this isn't something watered down after last year's explosion. This isn't about a popularity contest or creative ways with which to answer a challenge among friends. This is about raising money and awareness.
Taking that to mind, I'm issuing my own challenge to all of you that even if you're not going to dump a bucket of ice water on your head this year, at least remember the reason behind it and take a look at some of these links.
Without further ado, if you've forgotten about last year's Ice Bucket Challenge, here's my call to arms to mobilize the BC faithful, once more, in support of the fight against ALS:
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
That's a textbook definition from the ALS Association. Essentially it means the brain stops feeding the rest of the body, and it gradually wastes away. Muscles atrophy, nerve cells deteriorate, and a person's body breaks down. They gradually lose the ability to pretty much move and do anything physically, all while their brain is kept totally intact.
ALS is commonly referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease" after arguably its most famous patient. During the 1938 baseball season, Gehrig began experiencing physical issues, including fatigue. His batting average dipped from .351 to .295, and by the time spring training rolled around in 1939, his physical attributes were sharply declined. He failed to hit even remotely close to career averages, and stories surfaced about his inability to get over to first base or cleanly field balls. On May 2nd, he sat down after playing in 2,130 career baseball games. By the end of June, he retired after receiving his official diagnosis.
Less than two years later, Gehrig passed away.
Because it impacts muscles and motor neurons, individuals lose their strength and the ability to move their body. They eventually lose the ability to breathe without ventilation support because muscles inside the chest fail. Most ALS patients die from respiratory failure associated with the disease. So while ALS itself doesn't kill the patient, it does lead to the conditions that will, invariably, be fatal.
Last year, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge raised over $100 million for research. Nearly 750,000 new donors gave money to the ALS Association, and multiple ALS-related charities reaped the benefits of this cause.
That's why we need to level set the expectation once again. It's a well-known fact that short-term donations don't necessarily quantify for the breakthrough that's necessary in research. While last year raised roughly $100 million, one million people can raise more money by continuously donating a little bit of money over a longer period of time. That time can sustain research and lead, eventually, to a breakthrough.
Let's think about last year for a second. If 700,000 people combined to donate $100 million, that averages to roughly $133 per person. If only 500,000 donate $100 per person, we can hit that same number in two years. If that same amount of people donate less money per person each year than they did last year, they can double the funding in four short years. As medical research goes on, it will accumulate more than if ALS donations retreat to their pre-Ice Bucket Challenge numbers.
Even if you don't participate in dumping a bucket of ice water on your head, take the time to read the literature and stories of Lou Gehrig's Disease. Get to know the people impacted, and donate. Whether donating money or donating to the conversation, make sure everyone is still aware of it. And hopefully, #EveryAugustUntilACure can one day end with an ultimate victory over ALS.