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The ice bucket challenge: A social media game changer for ALS and MND

Depending on what side of the fence you’re sitting, social media can be seen as either a good thing that we embrace and jump on the bandwagon for, or something that's bad and evil. If you’re like most of us who seem to straddle, social media in itself is neither good nor bad. It’s what we do with it, what we say and how we share messages that either help or hurt us.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 23: Damien Oliver takes part in the 'Ice Bucket Challenge with assistance from TVN presenter Bruce Clark during Melbourne Racing at Moonee Valley Racecourse on August 23, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.
Photo by Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 23: Singer and actor Johnny Ruffo does the Ice Bucket Challenge during Sydney Racing at Royal Randwick Racecourse on August 23, 2014 in Sydney, Australia.
Photo by Anthony Johnson/Getty Images

Right now, one of the largest things trending is the ice bucket challenge. It's the something we’re watching, participating in or criticizing.

What we’re talking about is the impact that it’s making for the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS cause. In the United States, ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, named after the hall of fame baseball player who retired from the game in 1939 because of ALS. In England and Australia, they refer to it as Motor Neurone Disease (MND), and the French refer to it as maladie de Charot. They named it after Jean-Martin Charcot, the doctor who wrote about it in the late 1800s.

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes the motor nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord to stop functioning. Eventually the nerve cells die. This disease, which often impacts ones speech, breathing, swallowing, walking and running, leads to muscle weakness, paralysis, and eventually death. Although there are a few theories and factors that scientist have been able to link together, no one really knows what causes the majority of ALS cases.

Until recently, Nick, a 10th grader in a St. Louis Public High School had no personal connections with the disease; he admits it was just a small part of a lesson plan. What he remembers most is about the baseball player. Recently, he accepted and completed the challenge from his friends through Instagram. When asked what he now knows about the disease, he admits to learning more about ALS and Lou Gehrig after accepting the challenge. Nick is aware of one classmate who was affected by ALS. For the first time, Nick had a chance to hear about someone's experience with losing a loved one to the disease.

Two good ways to measure whether or not a social media campaign has met the intended goal(s), whether people agree with it or not, is that it heightens the awareness of a cause or mission and/or whether it helps to raise the money it needs.

From the looks of things (raising awareness with potential future donors and more than $41 million), the ALS ice bucket challenge may, at least in some respects, be close to meeting its goals with some help from its newfound social media fans.

The CDC offers information on ALS to individuals. There are two accounts people may sign up for. One is for the National ALS Registry for Persons with ALS (PALS) and the other is for the general public (health care providers, researchers, family members of persons with ALS, and others interested in learning more). To sign up, click here.

To read about how the ice bucket challenge may be a game changer for nonprofits (Clinton Herald), click here.

To read what the Archdiocese of St. Louis has to say about the challenge (fox2news), click here.

To read Pam Anderson’s view of the ice bucket challenge (foxnews.com), click here.

For information on how the ice bucket challenge is helping the MND cause (Herald Sun), click here.