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June 2012
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Ice buckets bring focus to good cause

By REBECCA WALTER Community Columnist

The stories and videos have flooded our Facebook newsfeeds to the point of being unavoidable.

It seems all of our friends, classmates, co-workers and relatives have poured those huge buckets of ice-cold water on themselves, screeching from the brutally cold water and making us all shiver as we watch.

I am, of course, talking about the "Ice Bucket Challenge," which has gained increasing popularity over the last month.

I have to admit when I first heard about the challenge, I found it a little silly. I simply saw it as people dumping water on their heads and not much more. I finally decided I needed to be a little bit more informed before jumping to conclusions.

Upon further research on ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, I soon discovered how wrong I was. ALS, also known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and in the spinal cord.

Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to muscles throughout the body. In the later stages of the disease, those who suffer become completely paralyzed. The ugly and unfair disease eventually leads to the death of those afflicted.

ALS was a disease that was notoriously underfunded until recently. Since the viral activism of the challenge has taken hold, more than $94 million has been raised in the past month alone. This number is growing by the minute as the next friend is called out to participate.

The idea of drenching yourself with cold water to raise awareness makes more sense than I thought at first.

Being covered with cold ice water is one of the closest ways your body can come to being almost completely numb. Those afflicted with ALS have their bodies slowly go numb until the point they are paralyzed.

Having bone-chilling water poured on you and being cold for a brief moment in no way begins to compare to what those with ALS go through, but helps make us more mindful.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is an excellent example of how social media can bring about change, particularly in the area of philanthropy.

Word can spread like wildfire through our Twitter feeds and Facebook. People can become aware of these issues through barely any effort.

The challenge begins with those participating "calling out" their friends to accept the ice-cold challenge. Participants must donate $10 to the ALS Foundation, or donate $100 if they choose not to participate. These challenges are made through social media typically, and if someone backs out, it can be quite obvious to the rest of the cyber world.

So while the baby pictures, engagement announcements and vacation pictures which usually flood our social media feeds are having to compete with the Ice Bucket Challenge, it's a good thing.

After all, being soaking wet and freezing for a brief moment is nothing compared to what those with ALS go through. It is a small price to pay to bring greater attention to this disease.

Rebecca Walter is a senior at Murray State University where she is news editor of the campus newspaper. Reach her at rwalter@murraystate.edu.

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