If you've been on any form of social media at all in the last few weeks, chances are that you've heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. But if you haven't, let us break it down for you: The Ice Bucket Challenge was created by 29-year-old Pete Frates, who himself has been diagnosed with ALS and can no longer speak, walk, or move his arms. Frates took the ice bucket challenge himself this past Thursday. The challenge is to dump a bucket of ice water over your head or donate to an ALS cause within 24 hours, though we don't think anyone would complain if you wanted to do both. ALS is also commonly referred to by its other name, Lou Gehrigs's Disease, but it's medical title is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord as well as the motor neurons of the central nervous system. It’s a progressive disease which means that the motor neurons are eventually killed off leaving the brain unable to control the movements of the body, robbing victims of their muscle movement. As the ability to voluntarily move decreases, the muscles deteriorate, tissue atrophies, and many patients of ALS become completely paralyzed. Early symptoms of ALS can include muscle weakness, trouble swallowing or speaking, and muscles appearing significantly smaller.
The idea of the challenge is that the ice water negatively affects your nerves, leaving you much less in control of yourself just like ALS does. In an effort to raise awareness and raise funds for the disease and finding its cure, thousands of people have taken up the Ice Bucket Challenge, from people who are, or are close to, a patient of the disease to super famous celebrities like teach billionaires Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates (the latter designing and building his own device for the perfect freezing pour) and red carpet A-listers like Justin Timberlake and Demi Lovato. After taking the plunge, the celebs call out their famous friends to take the challenge within 24 hours or donate $100 to the cause.
The Ice Bucket Challenge has raised $4 million and counting so far -- compare that to $1.12 million this time last year, according to alsa.org. If you'd like to make a difference in fight for an ALS cure, but aren't really about dumping ice water onto yourself on camera you can donate to alsa.org, projectals.org or als.net.