ALS: The disease behind the Ice Bucket Challenges

ALS: The disease behind the Ice Bucket Challenges

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - From news casters to first responders and celebrities, it seems everyone is taking the ice bucket challenge. But, what's behind all that cold, cold water?

The chilly challenge apparently started a few months ago as a way to raise money for various charities. Then a family in Boston took up the challenge in the name of a disease called ALS. From there it went viral.

The challenge is simple. If you're called out, you have two options: take the plunge and donate $10 to a local ALS group, or stay dry and donate a $100. So far, the national ALS Association says $9.5 million have been donated this year. Last year at this time, the group only had just over $1 million.

However, behind the videos, there are thousands of patients facing an overwhelming challenge. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. As it progresses, it slowly strips away a person's ability to walk, talk, swallow and even breathe. There's no cure and treatment consists of managing symptoms. Most patients diagnosed are only expected to live a few years.

"Many people describe it as being trapped in your own body," said Jaime Craig with the ALS Association of Louisiana and Mississippi.

Donations help groups like the local chapter of the ALS Association. The organization provides support groups, medical equipment and more to families throughout both states. All of their services are free.

ALS can cost patients up to $250,000 a year and many times needed equipment is not covered by insurance.

"We're hear to fill in the gaps that the health care community can't address," said Craig.

Craig explains that every dollar donated helps. Even just $25 can purchase a set of adaptive eating equipment for patients who have lost the ability to lose their hands. Craig says the awareness garnered by the viral videos is just as important.

"Awareness is one of the most important things to us. About half of the general public doesn't even know what ALS is. Any chance there is to spread the word, they're going to take it no matter how silly it is," said Craig.

Of course, if you'd rather stay dry you can always donate to the local ALS association directly, or even help through volunteering. For more information, go to their website

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