VALLEY VILLAGE (CBSLA.com) — It is a phenomenon that is spreading awareness of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) across the country through challenges that are posted to social media websites.
The “Ice Bucket Challenge” has become the viral sensation of summer, using the hash tag #IceBucketChallenge to attract thousands of followers while raising millions of dollars to assist in the research of this fatal neurogenerative disease.
The “Ice Bucket Challenge” started when 29-year-old Pete Frates of Beverly, Mass., helped to make this challenge go viral through websites like Twitter and Facebook.
The challenge involves people dumping buckets of ice water on themselves while recording it on video, posting their challenge to social media websites and nominating others to do the same.
Those challenged have the option to either accept, make a donation to any ALS charity of choice, or do both.
CBS2’s Serene Branson spoke with a Southland family who knows the pain of ALS all too well.
For Joy Aronson, her “Ice Bucket Challenge” was very personal due to losing her mother, Milly, at the age of 77-years-old following a diagnosis of ALS.
“My mom was a boisterous, happy woman,” said Aronson. “She loved to eat, to talk, and this disease robbed her of the ability to do both.”
The ALS Association is a national non-profit organization which aggressively searches for new treatments and builds hope to find a cure for those who have been diagnosed with the disease.
According to The ALS Association, the association has received $41.8 million in donations from existing and new donors since July 29, compared to the $2.1 million they received in donations around this time last year.
“My hope is that through this challenge and the money raised, there will be a clinical trial or research project that will find that magic bullet,” said Aronson. “There will be a cure for this disease.”
Fred Fisher runs the Golden West Chapter of The ALS Association, which serves those living in California and Hawaii.
Fisher said that he expects to meet with other chapter heads next week to determine where the donations can be used.
“It means the opportunity to do the things that we haven’t been able to,” said Fisher. “There are research projects on the shelf that are waiting to be funded, there are patients who are not being served.”
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, affects the nerve cells located in the brain and spinal cord, which can leave patients completely paralyzed.
According to The ALS Association, early symptoms include increasing muscle weakness in the arms and legs, speech, breathing or swallowing.
At this time, there is no found cure or treatment that reverses or stops the disease from spreading in those who have been diagnosed.
“The way cures are found is they have to go through clinical trials,” said Fisher. “A treatment isn’t a treatment until it’s proven to work on a patient.”
The hope of the “Ice Bucket Challenge” is to continue to raise awareness and have the many new donors stay involved in supporting this cause.
Aronson said that she co-chairs the ALS walk in Los Angeles, which is coming up on Oct. 19.
For more information on the Golden West Chapter of ALS, click here.