By BRIAN BOHNERT
Over the course of about a month, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has become a viral Internet powerhouse.
What started as a unique fundraising effort between friends has now become a worldwide phenomenon, catching the attention of everyone from Bill Gates and George W. Bush to Oprah Winfrey and Ben Affleck.
Newsfeeds across all social media platforms have been flooded with a constant stream of videos bearing the hashtags #IceBucketChallenge and #StrikeOutALS, as friends, neighbors, celebrities and politicians alike have gotten drenched in the name of a good cause.
In fact, as of Thursday, the ALS Association has received $41.8 million in donations compared to the $2.1 million raised during the same time period last year — July 29 to Aug. 21. According to the ALSA website, the donations have come from existing donors, as well as 739,275 new donors.
It’s safe to say the #IceBucketChallenge is more than just a passing fad.
To help the cause on a local level, J B Twisters Ice Cream & Things, 335 W. Lytle St., will put a new spin on the campaign by hosting a four-day ALS Fundraiser beginning this weekend. From Saturday through Tuesday, J B Twisters will be accepting donations to ALSA, with complimentary products and gift certificates being dealt out to donors.
Anyone who donates $3 will receive a free frozen slush or dipped ice-cream cone. Participants who make a donation of $5 will get themselves a Chilly Willy Shake from J B Twisters. The largest donation level, $10, will earn the participant a Kelley Hot Dog; a frozen bag of chips; and an ice-cold drink.
Closing out the fundraiser Tuesday evening will be the J B Twisters Ice Bucket Challenge. Beginning at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, J B Twisters will invite anyone and everyone in the community to show up, donate and have an ice-cold bucket of water dropped on them by J B Twisters staffers.
“It’s a great cause. It’s grabbed a lot of attention and we thought this would be a good way to get the community involved,” said Bill Reineck, J B Twisters co-owner.
In a Thursday interview with the Review Times, Reineck provided a sobering glimpse into the level of destruction ALS can leave in its wake.
“It’s a slow process,” Reineck said. “You don’t notice it everyday; but, a month at a time, you see it getting worse and you see your loved ones losing function of their bodies. They don’t lose the ability to think, so they know what’s happening to them but they just have difficulty expressing it.”
Fourteen years ago, Reineck lost his father, Louis (Bill) Reineck, to the deadly disease. Just three years ago, the affliction also claimed the life of both his aunt, Jane Still, and his cousin-in-law, Linda Watkins.
“You keep hoping things will improve; but with this, they never do,” he said. “With my dad, it was a very slow process over four years, the last year in particular … It becomes very frustrating and humiliating for them because they are not able to communicate and they have to have help with all of their bodily functions. You kind of see the hopelessness in their eyes. It’s awful.”
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Early symptoms of the deadly affliction often include rapid muscle weakness, especially in the arms and legs, speech, swallowing or breathing.
According to the ALS Association, “when the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.”
The rules of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge are simple. Within 24 hours of receiving a challenge, participants are to video record themselves announcing their acceptance, issuing their own challenges to three other individuals, and then dumping a bucket of ice water over their heads.
In some versions of the challenge, dumping the ice water over a participant’s head is done in lieu of making a monetary donation. However, in many cases, people donate regardless.
Greg Flores, Fostoria city councilman and senior program director for the Geary Family YMCA, took part in the challenge this week at Foundation Park. In a video posted to Facebook Wednesday, Flores, as well as his wife and son, popped a squat on a bright green patch of grass as a front-loader dropped a little more than a bucket-full of ice water on the trio.
“It was fun,” Flores said. “The reason why we thought of it is I got called out twice and my wife got called out once. We thought we’d get all of ours done at once.”
While the ice bucket challenge is a fun way to creatively draw attention to the cause, Flores said every donation made brings researchers one step closer to finding more answers about the deadly disease.
“One of the biggest things, I think, when something like this happens is looking into it and seeing why people are doing what they’re doing; if you don’t know what ALS is, to find out what it is about,” he said. “Some see it as a fad and just want to put their face on a Facebook video to get attention … That’s all well and good, but the main focus of any program like this is to bring awareness to a cause or disease like ALS.
“When you start to do the research and find out where it came from and how it affects people, I think it makes you want to do more to help out and give back.”
Thursday, members of Good Shepherd Home also participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. As per procedure, Good Shepherd’s staffers then nominated staff at St. Catherine’s Manor of Fostoria. Eight St. Catherine’s staff members will participate at 3:30 p.m. today.
Additionally, staff at Fostoria Intermediate Elementary School volunteered to take part in the challenge, then nominating every other Fostoria City Schools facility, including the administration.
According to the ALS Association, approximately 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year, and it is estimated that as many as 30,000 Americans may have the disease at any given time.
The ALS Association provides care services to assist people with ALS and their families “through a network of chapters working in communities across the nation and a global research program focused on the discovery of treatments and eventually a cure for the disease,” the website states.
For more information on ALS, the ice bucket challenge, or to donate to the cause, visit www.alsa.org.
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