It’s not often that being told “you’re all wet” is a good thing, especially in the news business.
But, that was the case for members of the Great Bend Tribune staff Friday afternoon. They endured having cold water dumped on their heads as part of the fundraising sensation the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
“This is a very worthy cause,” Tribune Publisher Mary Hoisington said. She was one of the employees who got doused.
“The challenge is a great way to raise awareness for a disease that is often out of the national spotlight,” she said. “Besides, it's a chance to cool off on a hot, late summer day.”
As for the destination for the funds raised by the Tribune’s challenge, Hoisington said the money will go to the ALS Association’s Keith Worthington Chapter that serves Kansas, Nebraska and Western/Central Missouri.
The Tribune challenged Clara Barton Hospital in Hoisington, Doug Hubbard and the Claflin Fire Department, the Kansas Wetlands Education Center and, to help them celebrate their 30th anniversary, Stueder Contractors of Great Bend.
The challenge to raise funds to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) involves having a bucket of ice water poured on the donor’s head who then challenges someone else to do the same. One can opt out of the soaking by offering to contribute more to the cause.
It has swept the nation on social media and over the Internet. It went viral in July and August, attracting such notable participants as George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
The ALS Association Friday noted challenge donations have topped $100 million in the past month. That compares to $2.8 million the association raised during the same time period last year.
More than 3 million people have donated, the association said. Donations have ranged from $1 to $200,000.
“The word gratitude doesn’t do enough to express what we are feeling right now,” said Barbara Newhouse, association president and CEO. “We recognize a profound sense of urgency and are engaged in discussions about how we’re going to put this money to work in the short term and into the future.”
Just what is ALS? It stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
It is a disorder, often called Lou Gehrig disease, that affects the function of nerves and muscles. Based on U.S. population studies, a little over 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year (That’s 15 new cases a day), the association reported. It is estimated that as many as 30,000 Americans have the disease at any given time.
According to the ALS CARE Database, 60 percent of the people with ALS are men and 93 percent are Caucasian. Most people who develop ALS are between the ages of 40 and 70, with an average age of 55 at the time of diagnosis.
The Keith Worthington Chapter
In 1973, Keith Worthington, his wife Sue, and their three teenage children were leading a full and happy life. Keith was the vice president of Woolf Bros., an upscale clothing store in Kansas City and Dallas. Sue was teaching art.
Then they heard the life altering news – Keith had ALS.
They enlisted the help of friends and business associates, they affiliated with the ALS Society, now The ALS Association, and began raising funds to promote research and services for those with ALS.
In 1978, Keith and Sue started the first ALS support group meeting in the region. There are now 14 support groups meeting throughout the chapter’s region.
In 1981, the Worthingtons opened a chapter office in Kansas City. Today there are offices in Kansas City, Wichita, Springfield and Omaha.
In 1984, after living with ALS for 12 years, Keith died.
More about the disease
ALS is a motor neuron disease, first described in 1869 by the noted French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot. Although the cause of ALS is not completely understood, the last decade has brought a wealth of new scientific understanding about the disease that provides hope for the future.
Lou Gehrig first brought national and international attention to the disease in 1939 when he abruptly retired from baseball after being diagnosed with ALS.
According to the ALS Association, the disease is a neurodegenerative disease that usually attacks both upper and lower motor neurons and causes degeneration throughout the brain and spinal cord. A common first symptom is a painless weakness in a hand, foot, arm or leg, which occurs in more than half of all cases. Other early symptoms include speech swallowing or walking difficulty.
Physicians have limited choices for treating ALS, and the options that do exist have come into use within the last 10 years. Stem cell and gene therapy are promising areas of research, but the ALS noted that much more research remains to be done.
“These funds will be used to fund cutting-edge research as well as care and support to people living with the disease,” said Newhouse. “We want to move quickly but decisively as our ultimate goal is to use this incredible generosity in a way that has the biggest impact on fighting this disease.”