By now you’ve sure seen one, or dozens of the videos of celebrities taking the “Strike out ALS Ice Bucket Challenge for Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”
It’s a bracing, funny, clever and, so far, very effective means of raising money to combat ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” which is defined as a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The disease causes the degeneration of the motor neurons that go from the brain to the spinal cord and to the muscles throughout the body, eventually causing loss of muscle control, paralysis and death.
Fifteen new cases of the disease are diagnosed in the U.S. every day and the Ice Bucket Challenge — in which the dunkee pours a bucket of ice water on their head and then challenges others to do the same within 24 hours or make a donation to fight ALS, or both — has shined a light on the disease that currently has no cure.
But whose idea was it? Well, according to the Los Angeles Times, it was the brainchild of 29-year-old ALS patient Peter Frates. The former captain of the Boston College baseball team drew inspiration from one of that club’s post-game rituals and challenged some local athletes on Twitter to get iced. The first reported challenge took place on July 15 and, once the Beverly, Massachusetts, Frates, his family and friends started challenging each other, his notoriety in the Boston sports world drew attention to the stunt in that area.
And, well, then the Internet took over, with more than 118,000 tweets in support of the effort in the past month. “It just took off,” Lynn Aaronson, executive director of the Massachusetts chapter of the ALS Association told the Times. After she took the challenge on several local news stations, she said it went viral and the rest is history.
But, as with any good origin story, there is a competing version of how it all began. (Including, this one, which said it started in early June and was not originally an ALS fundraiser.)
The Wall Street Journal, reported that golfer Chris Kennedy was the first known person to take the challenge on July 15 (the same day Matt Lauer did on the “Today Show), then challenging his cousin, Jeannette Senerchia, whose husband has had ALS for 11 years. Senerchia was filmed getting dumped on the next day, which inspired friends, family and Facebook acquaintances in Jeanette’s hometown of Pelham, New York, to follow suit. Senerchia’s Facebook web connected to Pat Quinn, a 31-year-old Yonkers, New York, ALS patient, who followed suit and asked his friend and family in Florida, Ireland and Greece to take the challenge.
Pay attention now. Quinn’s Facebook network overlapped with Frates’, who was diagnosed two years ago. Once promising athlete Frates, who lost the ability to talk several months ago, can no longer move his arms or legs and relies on a feeding tube now. Those who know him in the Boston area took up the challenge and, well, then it went big.
And, in case you were wondering, Frates finally took the plunge on Thursday, thanks to some help from the Boston Red Sox.
So far, the Challenge has raised more than $7.6 million for the ALS Association thanks to 146,000 new donors since July 29, compared to the $1.4 million raised during the same period last year, according to the Journal.