Understand what ALS really is

We’re concerned many of the people participating in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge may not understand the disease it’s meant to help.

While it’s fun to watch our friends, neighbors, teammates and coaches douse themselves with ice cold water, there really is a serious mission behind what’s become an internet craze.

ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. It is a progressive disease that attacks the nervous system, specifically the nerve cells and pathways in the brain and spinal cord.

When the affected cells die, people with the disease lose voluntary muscle control and movement. In the later stages of the disease, patients often become paralyzed.

According to alsa.org:

– An average of 15 people are diagnosed with ALS every day. As many as 30,000 people are believed to be living with ALS right now in the United States.

– The average life of someone diagnosed with ALS is two to five years from the time of their diagnosis. Half of those diagnosed live three or more years, 20 percent live five years or more.

– ALS can strike anyone. A staff member here at the Salem News has had a family member inflicted. He said it would be hard to fathom a more devastating disease a person could ever suffer. We feel for those victims. And their families.

Social media has helped spur this particular ice bucket challenge. Within 24 hours of being challenged, one is to video tape himself having icewater poured over his head. He is also expected to challenge or nominate three others to do the same. Those who do not take the challenge are asked to donate $100 to the ALS Association. Those who do accept the challenge are to donate $10.

So far, this ice bucket challenge has raised $41.8 million since this challenge took off about July 29. Last year during this same time period, the ALS Association received just $2.1 million in donations.

The ALS Association works to provide care to people with ALS and to assist their families. Donations to ALSA will also go toward research and finding a cure for the disease.

We hope people who take the challenge still make a donation as well, and spread the word about the disease and the need to find a cure.

We hope those doing the bucket experience aren’t just doing it for some yucks and to perhaps get their name or photo in the paper or on TV. That’s not the intent. We appreciate the charitable efforts of those who discreetly and quietly render their generous acts without worrying whether or not someone is standing around with a camera. That is humility at its finest.

To find out more, or to donate to the cause, go to www.alsa.org.