ALS gets dumped on social media

By Julia Wunning-Zimmer, Kirkwood HS, Kirkwood, Mo.

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Kirkwood-ALSBeads of sweat cascade down her back. Adrenaline courses through her veins, while she clenches her fists and squeezes her eyes shut in anticipation of the freezing sensation that she is about to undergo. Her mind races. She is doing this for not only the enjoyment of her friends and family who view this on Facebook, but for the sake of many lives. This daunting challenge could ultimately cure a disease. Suddenly, the freezing liquid drapes over her like an arctic blanket, chilling every molecule of her existence.

Challenge completed.

With no specific origin, the Ice Bucket Challenge, a viral-video phenomenon, has spread across the globe to raise over $100 million in donations for the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association, according to alsa.org. Forbes.com said there has been a 3,500 percent increase from the $2.8 million that the association received last summer. Typically, the challenges involve a person getting chilling ice-water dumped upon their head, the specified person challenging three other individuals to complete the challenge and the victim of the challenge notifying viewers of how much money they will donate to the association.

ALS is a progressive, rapidly fatal neurological disease that attacks nerve cells that control muscles like in the legs, arms and face. As ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, progresses, people diagnosed with the disease gradually lose the ability to eat, speak, walk or move many muscles at all, according to ninds.nih.gov.

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People who are opposed to the viral sensation make the point that third-world countries are having a shortage of water, making the Ice Bucket Challenge appear to be the first-world countries’ way of stating their carelessness. Also, people could be dividing up their money donations to different charities and organizations, like the Heart Foundation, the Arthritis Foundation or for breast cancer research, instead of shoving a heaping sum into the welcoming hands of the ALS Association. Though these arguments do have support, people cannot ignore that the Ice Bucket Challenge was made to help others, not to hurt them. The truth is, this viral sensation has been raising millions to further research, which directly helps people who are dying from the disease.

Though it seems to me as if the majority of people did not know what ALS was before the Ice Bucket Challenge phenomenon, I did. In fact, a whopping 12 people in my family have battled the disease because the rare genetic form of Lou Gehrig’s runs in my family.  I have either a zero or 50 percent chance of possessing the dominant gene that would cause the disease. As a result of this chance that my direct family and I could be affected by ALS, I have decided to volunteer with my aunt every summer at the St. Louis Chapter of the Association for the past five years. Ultimately, I have gotten much closer with ALS than most average people, so I myself cannot imagine why people can criticize such a beautiful thing like this whole-hearted viral-video craze.

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When someone creates a video of themselves completing the challenge, they are bringing a huge amount of awareness of ALS that the disease had not had before the challenge. Every time a challenge is uploaded, more donations are being made, which pushes research further. Despite wasting water that would have been wasted anyways on making a pseudo pool in the backyard to cool off, this challenge does not mean a great deal of harm, but it makes a great difference.

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