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ALS Ice Bucket Challenge on 'The Doctors': Athletes raise awareness

Ice Bucket challenge for ALS goes viral.
Ice Bucket challenge for ALS goes viral.
Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) ranks as one of the most devastating diseases. Now a social media movement called the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has gone viral in the search for a cure. "The Doctors" talk show featured the challenge and discussed what ALS involves on the Aug. 22 episode.

A deadly neurological condition, ALS has no known cure. To help fund research, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has raised $42 million in donations to the ALS Association in just one month.

An estimated 2.5 million people have taken the challenge by pouring a bucket of ice water over their heads, then posting the video online. Each person accepting the challenge nominates another person to participate, and those who decline must donate money. But most people are doing both.

ALS results in a progressive degeneration of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Patients gradually lose their ability to control their muscles, resulting in paralysis.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went viral when former baseball player Pete Frates, who at 29 suffers from the condition, posted a video on his Facebook page. He used the hashtags #ALSIceBucketChallenge, #StrikeOutALS and #QuinnForTheWin.

Pete no longer has the ability to speak, swallow or walk. But he is mentally strong. His younger brother Andrew talked with "The Doctors" co-hosts about his brother's health and his own efforts to help fuel funding. It's a movement that many professional athletes have supported by taking the ALS Ice Bucket challenge and donating.

Because Pete was once an active young athlete, it's especially meaningful that so many in the sports world have shown their support. From LeBron James to Kobe Bryant to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, celebrity sports figures have participated, reported ESPN on Aug. 21.

"This is something we could have never imagined," said Barbara Newhouse, who has only served as president and CEO of the ALS Association since May. "This has taken us to a whole new level."

Newhouse expressed her appreciation to the sports community, who have rallied to make the challenge go viral so quickly. Minor league golfer Chris Kennedy scored initially in turning the Ice Bucket Challenge into an activity for ALS.

As noted, former Boston College baseball captain Pete Frates has ALS, but with the help of his family and friends, he took the challenge to the next level along with his friend Pat Quinn, who also has the condition. And NHL player Paul Bissonnette also scored by tweeting a video of him getting glacial water dropped on him from a helicopter.

"The sports community has played in key role in making this what it became," Newhouse said. "We're very thankful of everything athletes and teams have done."

ALS has been connected to sports since New York Yankees slugger Lou Gehrig died from the disease in 1941. Although Newhouse acknowledges that some still refer to it as Lou Gehrig's disease, she appreciates that the ice bucket challenge is raising awareness of ALS without the tie.

"This is a game-changer for us in terms of awareness," pointed out Newhouse. "There are young people who aren't familiar with who Lou Gehrig is and this has allowed ALS to take on a life of its own. This isn't just Lou Gehrig's disease. It's Pete Frates' disease and Pat Quinn's disease."

As Pete's parent, John Frates keeps his own goals simple. "I just want my son cured," said John in an Aug. 22 interview with the Boston Herald.

Defending the research, John added, "Pete’s priest who was the BC baseball chaplain when Pete was playing did the ice bucket challenge back when it was in its infancy. When he did it I said, 'I think you just created a new sacrament.'"

As a father of an ALS patient, John wants to focus on the future. He emphasizes his gratitude for those who have stepped up and taken the challenge.

"To have so much funding come about so rapidly, it really is miraculous," added the grateful father. "Especially juxtaposed with the archaic, glacial movement of ALS research. It’s amazing."