Ice-bucket challenge brings attention to ALS

By Ashley Mitchem - Reporter, anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Facebook is saturated with videos of people dumping buckets of ice on their heads. It's a social media campaign aiming to raise awareness and money to fight Lou Gehrig's disease, or ALS.

It's disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement that sometimes hits people in the prime of life.

The challenge is simple: Donate $100 to a given cause or douse yourself with ice, record it and pass the challenge on to others via social media.

The campaign is clearly working: from July 29 to August 12, the national office of the ALS Association received $2.3 million compared with $25,000 in donations during the same time period last year.

That's welcome news for the 12,000 Americans who have the disease, which is devastating and ultimately fatal, and for their families and future generations.

Count those among who have accepted the challenge several News4Jax staffers, where Hailey Winslow did it on the air Wednesday night and much of "The Morning Show" team on Thursday.

While people are having a fun time doing the ice-bucket challenge, ALS is no laughing matter. Those with the disease have a two- to five-year life expectancy.

There's no cure and doctors don't know what causes it.

"Over a one- to two-year period you go from being a totally normally functioning person to being in a scooter or wheelchair," said Dr. Alan Berger, chairman of the Neurology Department at UF Health. "By the third year you're confined to a wheelchair or a bed."

Berger took on the challenge, too, and hopes the more people become aware, the more money will be raised because right now doctors and scientists lack funding for research.

"Once a diagnosis is there, it's fatal, and unless we begin to find some way to control this, a lot of people are dying, and it's a terrible way to go," Berger said.

Find out more about the disease and make a donation at the ALS Association website.

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