By CHRIS MARKHAM
In the last few weeks, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge erupted across social media outlets. The millions who took up the challenge bombarded Facebook with videos of dumping ice cold water on their heads in an attempt to raise awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, a malady which eventually causes the victim’s body to fail.
The rules are well known by now: when challenged, one must dump ice water on their head within 24 hours or donate $100 to alsa.org. However, what very few people could tell you is how this challenge originated and how it spread nationwide, even landing here at the University of Mary Washington.
Former Boston College outfielder and team captain for the school’s baseball team Pete Frates is the spark that ignited the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge fire. Six years after graduating from Boston College, Frates received the harrowing news that, at the age of only 27, his body would begin to shut down.
Almost immediately, Frates attacked his disease, not physically, but verbally. The young man traveled the country advocating awareness for ALS and pushed for more intense research and funding. Just one year after his diagnosis, Frates spoke in front of the Food and Drug Administration to raise awareness. Three months later, Frates married his girlfriend of nearly two years and is now expecting a child, all despite being restricted to a wheel chair and a feeding tube.
After being introduced to the Ice Bucket Challenge by some of his friends, Frates saw it as an opportunity to make a difference. He challenged friends, family and even celebrities to take the challenge and make a donation. Just like that, a movement was born.
As hot, summer weeks passed, the internet sensation gained more and more traction until one could not scroll through Facebook news feeds without seeing multiple videos of people soaked in water. This water first came down on UMW in the middle of July while the women’s basketball team was hosting its annual Nike summer camp.
The team took a break from the camp to accept the challenge given to them by York College’s head women’s basketball coach Betsy Witman. UMW Head Coach Deena Applebury sat down next to UMW Athletic Director Ken Tyler, the man she elected to challenge, and both were promptly iced. Their donation was made to a different charitable organization, however, as the challenged were directed toward the Kay Yow Cancer Research fund.
The next wave of ice water came through UMW a month later when freshman Laney Sullivan issued the challenge to President Rick Hurley. Other members of the UMW athletic department also took part in the video alongside President Hurley. Senior equestrian rider Alyssa Smallridge was featured in the video, along with her coach, Teresa Seay, Senior Associate Athletic Director Dana Hall and Director of Athletic Development and Promotion Phillip Pierce.
The honor of dumping the ice water on the victims was given to Tyler, Senior Director of Facilities Stuart Sullivan, Vice President of Student Affairs Doug Searcy and Washington Redskins Hall of Famer and Special Assistant for Student Athlete Development and Public Relations Darrell Green.
On average, 15 people are diagnosed with ALS every day. Once being diagnosed, ALS victims have an average of two to five years to live. Only about ten percent of victims survive ten years after diagnosis.
Last year, the ALSA only raised $2.8 million in the same amount of time that it took to raise more than $100 million this year. From receiving donations ranging from one dollar to $200,000, every penny made a difference.
Not only did these individuals graciously accept the cold water that was poured on their heads, but Tyler also donated $100 on behalf of the UMW athletic department toward ALS research. The UMW athletic department is just one of millions to make a difference in stopping this disease.
Through the power of social media, one man was able to start a movement to make a difference and have his voice heard.