When the ALS Society of Alberta first caught wind of the Ice Bucket Challenge we had no idea how successful this campaign would be at giving hope to those living with and affected by ALS, increasing awareness, and raising funds. What started as a local challenge between family and friends of the Frates family in Boston has introduced a once isolated ALS community to a mass audience globally, and has created a sense of recognition, inclusion, and dignity to those living with and affected by ALS.
A SIMPLE ACT: A SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE
Families and friends of those living with ALS commonly experience a feeling of helplessness as they watch their loved one go through the journey of ALS. If there was only “something more they could do” for their loved one who has been diagnosed with ALS, they would do so in a heartbeat. The Ice Bucket Challenge is something that just about anyone can do to help as long as they have access to a bucket, water, and a bag of ice!
While some may wonder how dumping a bucket of frigid ice water on their heads could possibly help the cause of ALS, this simple act has already made a significant difference to the ALS community here in Alberta; those who have participated in the challenge should be very proud.
LIVING WITH ALS
The disabling and progressive nature of the disease can isolate those living with ALS from their communities and society in general, but the Ice Bucket Challenge has helped to bring ALS out of the margins and into the limelight. The practical challenges that ALS itself imposes on mobility and speech are isolating in and of themselves, but just as, or perhaps even more isolating, is the fact that up until now this disease was barely spoken of and poorly understood. This lack of understanding and acknowledgment of ALS in the general public can discourage people living with the disease from bothering to get out of their homes and into their communities. This is a loss for everyone, as people living with ALS have much to contribute to Society.
The Ice Bucket Challenge has helped changed this!
While the incidence of ALS is nearly the same as MS, up until now ALS is simply not talked about as often, perhaps because the lifespan of ALS (2-5 years after first signs and symptoms) can be much shorter lived than MS. Whatever the reasons for the lack of awareness, since the Ice Bucket Challenge began, there has been an incredible peak of interest in the disease itself, and the ALS Society of Alberta has seen a rush of followers on Facebook, Twitter, and its website, which has ultimately allowed the ALS Society of Alberta to take its cause to a broader audience.
ICE + WATER + BUCKET = FAME + FORTUNE
The recent flood of videos that are circulating social media serve as an acknowledgement of the disease, but also as a public tribute to people living with and affected by ALS. The Ice Bucket Challenge videos recognize and include people living with and affected by ALS, and they facilitate connection to others.
Of course, they help raise a lot of money as well! In August of 2013, the ALS Society of Alberta received $790 in donations. The same time this year, we have received approximately $300,000!
THE ALS SOCIETY RESPONDS TO ALBERTANS’ GENEROUSITY
We are very grateful for this support as it helps ensure we can continue to provide our clients with the support, equipment, and mobility aids needed to face ALS with dignity; maintain independence; and most importantly, get out into the community and live well with ALS!
So, “THANK YOU!” to everyone who has participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge. You have truly made a difference!
Guest Contributor: Megan Blomfield BSW, RSW
Megan Blomfield BSW, RSW, is a Client Services Coordinator for the ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) Society of Alberta, and the current Vice-Chairperson of the Alberta Hospice Palliative Care Association.