The shock of having gallons of freezing-cold water dumped over your head is unpleasant enough.
But then the chill of standing around in icy clothes can be shiver-inducing even on the hottest days.
Still, Emily Ward and her friends at Maple Grove Elementary School were willing to trade a few minutes of discomfort for a chance to help those suffering from Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
They became part of a growing movement taking on the Ice Bucket Challenge. The challenge has become a viral sensation over the past month.
Everyone from grade-school children to celebrities such as Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake have been soaked to show solidarity for patients with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, officially known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS.
Captured on YouTube and social media, the campaign has brought in more than $4 million in donations for the ALS Association and provided invaluable exposure for their cause of curing the disease.
“It’s probably had the most impact on ALS awareness that we’ve ever experienced,” said Cynthia Wise, executive director of the ALS Association Indiana Chapter.
“We’ve done nothing but field calls about it.”
In the splash pad at the Franklin Family Aquatic Center, Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness stood in anticipation underneath the oversized bucket. On either side of him were Mike Leonard, head football coach at Franklin College, and David Clendening, superintendent of Franklin Community Schools.
Nervously glancing up at the bucket, they waited while it filled up. Finally, the water and ice came rushing out onto their heads and backs.
The three men had agreed to take part in the Ice Bucket Challenge together. McGuinness had been roped into it by Franklin College athletic trainer Chris Shaff, a former fraternity brother of his at the college.
In college, their fraternity’s main fundraiser had been for
the ALS Association. So it seemed appropriate that he take part in this trend.
“We’ve seen so many of the videos, all of the celebrities. There have been unique ways of doing it, but I don’t think anyone’s done it like this,” McGuinness said. “It’s great, it raises awareness and it’s all for a good cause.”
The challenge has worked like a game of tag. Once someone gets doused, it’s their turn to challenge someone else to brave the icy cold. That person can get out of it by donating to the ALS Association, though people are encouraged to do both.
All of the attention has been a boon for the ALS Association.
As of Tuesday, more than $4 million had been donated to the ALS Association in the span of about two weeks.
Over the same period last year, the organization had raised $1.1 million.
Even more valuable has been the chance to spotlight the disease, a degenerative disorder that attacks the nerves in the spinal cord and brain.
“ALS is a very misunderstood disease, so unless people hear Lou Gehrig’s name attached to it, they don’t know what it is,” Wise said. “They don’t know that it’s a deadly disease, or that there’s no cure.”
The Ice Bucket Challenge was started in late July in the Boston area. Friends and family of Peter Frates, a 29-year-old ALS patient, doused themselves with a bucket of cold water to help raise money and awareness for the disease.
Since that time, more than 71,000 people have participated in the challenge. Entertainers, sports stars and other celebrities, from Ethel Kennedy to Martha Stewart to Matt Lauer, have taken part.
Indianapolis Colts players Matt Hasselbeck and Pat McAfee challenged their coach, Chuck Pagano. The team’s cheerleaders also have been soaked.
“People are starting to be aware of it. And I can’t tell you about what it does for people who have ALS, thanking everyone for bringing so much awareness,” Wise said.
After Ward saw a TV feature on the challenge last week, she persuaded her mom to help her put together her own event. The fifth-grader worked with friends to all gather in the Center Grove area Saturday to do the challenge themselves.
She passed out cards with information about ALS and the challenge to her classmates at Maple Grove. Her sister, second-grader Melany Ward, also invited her friends to participate.
“With the newscasts of all of the people doing it, she was trying to do something to help the cause of the association,” said Brooke Ward, Emily Ward’s mother. “We’ve taken part in ALS fundraisers before, and this was a way for her to try and do something.”
The challenge is still expanding exponentially, Wise said.
By having people video their own dousing, then calling out others via social media, the Ice Bucket Challenge will hopefully keep growing, Wise said.
“For us, it’s just about the people who do it continuing it on. Part of the fun is challenging the next person,” she said.