ALS Association's Northern Ohio Chapter Sees Tremendous Response from Ice Bucket Challenge

click to enlarge Lenny's Biggest Fans, a team participating in the Walk to Defeat ALS. - ALSA Northern Ohio Chapter
ALSA Northern Ohio Chapter
Lenny's Biggest Fans, a team participating in the Walk to Defeat ALS.


Seems like you can't fire up Facebook anymore without seeing either your goofball friends or some local newsperson dumping a big ol' bucket of ice water on their heads. 

The Ice Bucket Challenge has become in short order the most visible phenomenon of 2014. But rather than an empty gesture, this thing is generating millions of dollars nationwide for ALS research and levels of public awareness that advocates say have never previously been reached. 

"This movement has surpassed our second most famous moment, Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man” speech announcing his retirement from baseball and subsequently making him our most famous patient," Mary Wheelock, the executive director of the Northern Ohio Chapter of the ALS Association, tells Scene. ALS, a disease that targets nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, is more colloquially known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease."

Since July 29, the local chapter has raised $270,000. And that number is growing everyday, Wheelock says. The Challenge has proved to be an unanticipated tsunami of positive press and growth. 

"The impact that this campaign is having local ALS families is immeasurable," she says. "Not long ago, half the general public had no recognition of ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Our families call every day to report that the Ice Bucket Challenge has restored hope in ways never imaginable."

The Cleveland Walk to Defeat ALS, which will be held on Sunday, Sept. 21 at Progressive Field, has seen similar increases among registrants. As of yesterday, there were 1,008. By comparison, Wheelock says, there were 524 participants registered for the event at the same time last year (the chapter's record is 2,200). One can imagine that translates into literally thousands more ice bucket challenge videos, but Wheelock notes that there are plenty of ways to raise funds for research. The chapter's goal through the next month is to hit $315,000. 

People are being incredibly generous with the Ice Bucket Challenge and we’re hopeful that this generosity and interest in ALS will extend through the rest of this year with increased participation in our fall events," Wheelock says. "Despite this considerable amount of money donated nationwide, our fight against this disease won’t end this summer. We need continued support to help patients and families impacted by this disease here in Northern Ohio."
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Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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