RENEE ORDWAY

Remember, ALS is the focus of the ice bucket challenge

Posted Aug. 15, 2014, at 3:43 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 15, 2014, at 4:22 p.m.

I just returned from the Bangor Humane Society, where I willingly dumped a bucket of ice water over my head. In doing so, I joined millions across the country who have done the same.

If you haven’t witnessed this odd behavior, which has gone viral in the world of social media, then I’m not sure where you’ve been — perhaps, and hopefully, lakeside in Maine, with no Internet or television.

The ice bucket challenge was devised as a unique way to bring attention to ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a debilitating and always fatal neurodegenerative disease.

The idea for the challenge came from Peter Frates, the former captain of the Boston College baseball team, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2012.

The challenge involves people video taping themselves being doused with ice water and then publicly shouting out a challenge to others to do the same. If you refuse, you are supposed to make a donation to the ALS Association.

Or at least I think that’s how it is supposed to work. Just like in the childhood game we called Telephone, the exact message seems to have become a bit garbled as it has been passed down the line.

The “Today” show seemed to miss the mark when Matt Lauer took part. Before she soaked Lauer, co-host Savannah Guthrie briefly commented that you were supposed to donate to charity if you refuse the challenge.

No one mentioned ALS during the live segment.

Some critics have suggested the meaning has been lost and that the “challenge” has become nothing more than a social media “game” and that it’s, well, foolish.

Oh, it may be a bit foolish. It’s a bit of fun, and it’s true some, like Lauer, have missed the mark about raising awareness and donations for ALS but certainly not everyone.

According to the ALS Association, it received $4 million in donations between July 29, when the challenge began, and Aug. 12. That’s compared to the $1.1 million in donations it received during the same time span last year.

That’s worth a cold shower, I’d say.

Of course, it is also about awareness. To that end, I agree the critics have a point in noting that the fun of challenging your friends or co-workers to dump a bucket of cold water over their head may have become the most prominent point of the challenge.

That could be done better. For example, if members of the media are going to take on the challenge on air, it might be nice if they ran an informative piece on the disease prior to drenching the television anchor.

Then again, I’m not a TV producer.

But I have this precious space that holds about 600 words.

So, from the ALS website, here is a bit of information and the purpose behind this odd bucket-of-water-over-the-head phenomenon we are witnessing.

ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

Currently, there is only one drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat ALS, and it only modestly extends survival by two to three months. Consequently, ALS is 100 percent fatal. People with the disease progressively lose their ability to eat, speak, walk and eventually breathe.

It most commonly strikes people between the ages of 40 and 70, and as many as 30,000 Americans have the disease at any one time.

The Bangor Humane Society participated Friday, accepting the challenge from the fine folks at the Franklin County Animal Shelter. The folks at BHS tossed their challenges to the staff members at Veazie Veterinary Clinic, Broadway Veterinary Clinic and to Matt Qualey at Qualey Granite in Veazie.

Have fun with it, but don’t forget to take a moment to remember the reason we are all partaking in this foolishness.

Renee Ordway can be reached at reneeordway@gmail.com.

 

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