Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, has seen a huge jump in donations for a cure in just over a month. The nearly $100 million in donations towards a cure is largely due to the Ice Bucket Challenge. What is the Ice Bucket Challenge? When someone nominates another to take the challenge, they have 24 hours to complete it by pouring a bucket of ice and water over themselves, nominating three other people to do the same, upload their video to a social media website, and make a donation.
The highly successful worldwide fundraising social experiment has adults and kids, celebrities and athletes, and everyone in between, generating an awareness by joining the fight against the progressive disease.
Canadian ice-hockey player Paul Bissonnette had freezing cold glacier water poured over him from a bucket delivered by a helicopter. Rock musician Dave Grohl switched a bucket of pig’s blood for a bucket of ice water as he portrayed the telekinetic “Carrie” in Stephen King’s thriller before nominating the King himself. Matt Damon decided to bring awareness to the clean water and sanitation crisis throughout the world by using toilet water. Oprah Winfrey did it, Bill Gates, Justin Timberlake, and Justin Bieber did it, twice. The list goes on.
Altus residents are right there with them taking the challenge by emptying buckets of freezing cold ice water over their heads while honoring those who have lost their lives to the disease. Altus Chamber of Commerce President, Brian Bush, took the challenge at the Great Plains Stampede Rodeo Military Appreciation Night on Thursday, Aug. 21, with the help of Altus Air Force Base Security Forces. Bush then nominated Dr. Rick Henry and David Tucker, both of Altus, before Security Forces lifted and poured a heavy trough filled with water and ice over his head.
“Our family has been touched by this disease, so both my son and I took the ice bucket challenge and we are also donating to ALS research,” Bush said. “I was really excited to do it, especially in this way, celebrating such a fun event here in Altus with the great folks from the Air Force Base, so it was just a great way to bring all those things together.”
Evolved Fitness owner, Aaron Brink, didn’t think a little bucket of ice water was enough, so he hopped into a large oval trough filled with water and 140 lbs. of ice. Then he poured bucket after bucket after bucket over himself. The gym donated $100 to ALS research, $100 to cancer research, and $100 to the Wounded Warrior Foundation.
“One of the big things at EF, and in myself always, is to go kind of above and beyond, and we always push our clients to do better than they did yesterday,” Brink said. “I feel like people with ALS or any other condition like that, they deal with so much more than we do, so I can deal with a little discomfort for a minute, not just three seconds.”
Not only has the Ice Bucket Challenge brought ALS to the forefront of peoples minds, it has also given participants a way to honor those who are still fighting it, and to those who have lost their lives to the disease.
On Wednesday, members of the Elm and Hudson Church of Christ took the Ice Bucket Challenge to remember Altus’ own Dennis Gilbert. Gilbert died on Memorial Day this year, at the age of 51 after a five and a half year battle with ALS.
Church of Christ Minister, Tom Bailey, stated that while ALS was becoming more “public conscience,” now was good time to honor Gilbert.
“We do recognize some of the concerns that churches have about stem cells, and we have those same concerns,” Bailey said. “We were able to talk to them and say we don’t want our funds used that way, they said ‘No problem,’ and that it would be used for servicing the families of ALS victims or patients, and probably used in this area that excited us as well.” The congregation raised $1,233 on Wednesday, and expects more donations in the coming week.
Gilbert was diagnosed with the nuerodegenerative disease in 2008, while living in Oklahoma City, and working as the Superintendent of Greens at the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club. Up until then he was said to be in good health, having excelled as an all-conference athlete in baseball, basketball, and football in his youth. He then moved back home to Altus to be closer to his parents, three brothers, and friends, and worked as the Service Manager at Johhny Roberts Motors, Inc., for a year an a half until his was unable to work. Closer to home, he was frequently visited by family and friends.
Gilbert’s parents, Lainial and Nelda Gibert, described how the disease progressed. Dennis lost the use of his left first, followed by other extremities before being wheelchair bound within 2 years. A year later, he was receiving food through a feeding tube. Soon, he lost all motor functions except for eye movement, leaving his only means of communication through a computer called “eye gaze,” an eye controlled communication device. Eventually, he was confined to his bed until he passed away.
Nelda said that Dennis didn’t show much frustration, instead he had a good demeanor and never complained. “You are completely aware, you have your mind. He knew what was taking place and what was going on with him constantly,” She said. “He was just a prisoner in his own body. He was an intelligent young man, and very athletic, but he had to lay there and could move even his little finger, nothing but his eyeballs.”
“It certainly brought an awareness to the disease,” Lainial said. “Because ALS is said to be so rare, no cure has been found, and because most donation money goes into cancer research and heart disease. This has brought a real stout awareness to ALS. It’s a crippling, devastating disease.” Considered to be a rare disease, the family said that three of their friends also were diagnosed and passed away having suffered ALS.
Along with the Church of Christ congregation, Nelda, Lainial, and family, took the Ice Water Bucket Challenge, reminding that Dennis had many friends and family who have done the challenge in his name.
ALS is also referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and is a “progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord,” according to the ALS Association. Approximately 5,600 in the US are diagnosed the disease that results in an increased loss of muscle control and movement, and often leads to paralysis and death in a course of 2 to 5 years. There is no cure, however there is one approved drug, Riluzole, that extends the life of patients by a few months.
On Wednesday, Aug. 27, the ALS Association reported receiving over $94.3 million in donations since July 29, compared to having received only $2.9 million during the same month last year. Since last week alone, the Association received $72 million - due mainly in part to Ice Buck Challenges and social media such as facebook. Donations will be allocated for further research and care services for those suffering with ALS.
“We are simply awe-struck at the incredible generosity that has poured forth to help fight this disease,” said Barbara Newhouse, President and CEO of The ALS Association. “Words cannot express how grateful we are to the nearly two million people who have donated and even more than that who have likely taken the challenge. You have all made an incredible effort in the fight against this disease.”
For more information about ALS, or to donate, visit www.alsa.org.