Have you participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge yet? If you have, kudos to you. If not, chances are you will be challenged eventually by a family member or a friend. If you have been nominated and have declined, then boooo! Either way, I hope you donated generously.

As some of you know, the ALS challenge is sweeping through social media. Simply put, if you are nominated, you can satisfy the challenge by merely dumping a bucket of ice water on your head, or you can have someone else do it. I’m sure your kids or spouse would be happy to perform this task for you. It’s supposed to be a full bucket, but some people have “cheated” by using a smaller container or even a cup (Al Trautwig). If you have been challenged you have 24 hours to either participate and donate $10 to an ALS charity or decline and donate $100. If you do participate you may then nominate three others to do so. How successful has this campaign been? In just a little over two weeks the ALS Association reports 70,000 new donors have contributed approximately $4 million compared to $1.2 million last year.

The first recorded challenge was taken on July 16 by Jeanette Senerchia of upstate New York, however, it really began to catch on after a former Boston College baseball player, who actually has ALS, took the challenge, posted it on twitter and challenged several professional athletes in and around the Boston area to participate. Some notables who have participated include Aaron Rodgers, Matt Lauer, Chris Christie, Jimmy Fallon, Justin Timberlake, Ethel Kennedy (who challenged President Obama who declined but donated $100), and various New England Patriots.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), aka “Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a neurodegenerative disease. The exact cause is unknown. There is no test that diagnoses the disease. Typically, physicians can only identify it by eliminating all other possibilities that might be causing the patient’s symptoms.

ALS was first identified in the mid-nineteenth century, but the public first became aware of it when Lou Gehrig was stricken in 1938, hence the nickname. One of the most poignant sports scenes ever occurred on July 4, 1939 when Mr. Gehrig gave his retirement speech before a packed house at Yankee Stadium, the so-called “luckiest man” speech. If you haven’t viewed it on the internet or the re-enactment in the movie “Pride of the Yankees,” you should.

In some cases, the disease runs in families, which suggests that there might be a defective chromosome that is inherited. However, in about 90% of the cases there is no family history. Possible causes in those instances could be head trauma, military service and participation in athletics, but no one really knows. There is no cure, although the drug Riluzole has been shown to increase the patient’s survival time to some extent. In addition, other medications may be prescribed to alleviate some of the accompanying symptoms such as muscle cramps, fatigue, pain, depression and sleep disturbances. Physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy may also help in some cases. Unfortunately, it is 100% fatal and a most unpleasant way to die.


The challenge has been highly successful. I don’t know how long it will continue before fizzling out. But, it has certainly raised the awareness of the disease significantly. Perhaps, the challenge will become a blueprint for other worthy causes.



  1. Proud that our son , Matthew , has participated ! His children gave him the “icy treatment ” . Ethel Kennedy , who is a mere 86, accepted the challenge . She then nominated President Obama as one if her appointees . Obama declined to participate .I feel that he had accepted Ethel’s challenge that it would have made him seem more human than an unfeeling machine.

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