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The Viral Phenomenon of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

You’ve seen it everywhere by now. If it’s not all over social media sites like facebook and twitter, there are videos shared on news sites, blogs, and challenges even being featured on TV shows. Millions around the world have been pouring buckets of ice water over their heads all in the name of ALS awareness. It has raised nearly $80million dollars, but it also has its fair share of doubters. Has the real point of the ice bucket challenge been drowned by folks just trying to put a video on the internet? Or has this phenomenon just been a fortunate result of viral campaigning in the social media age? Either way the results have been positive. However, let’s look at the origins of the challenge as well as a few ALS facts.

The origin of the ice bucket challenge comes from Pete Frates, a college baseball star from Boston who was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as “Lou Gherig’s Disease, at age 27. After his diagnosis Pete dedicated his life to fight ALS. His goal was to bring more attention and more action to the disease in order to raise awareness and funds to aid his fight. Pete’s friends started the ice bucket challenge in order to raise awareness and funds for Pete’s charity. It was simple, dump a bucket of ice water on yourself then post it on social media. While Pete could not do it himself, he nominated others to do it. What started out between Pete and his friends has spread globally through the power of social media, with celebrities, athletes, and families everywhere participating in the challenge. As of August 25th, the ice bucket challenge helped raise $79.7 million dollars this year, compared to $2.5 million dollars during the same span last year. Pete was finally able to participate by having his wife dump ice water on his head at Fenway Park, described by him as the “perfect place”. While his fight continues he can thank social media and the millions of supporters and participants for helping him move a little bit closer to his goal.

Watch Pete’s story on ESPN here 

Here are a few ALS facts from

  • ALS is not contagious.

  • It is estimated that ALS is responsible for nearly two deaths per hundred thousand population annually.

  • Approximately 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year. The incidence of ALS is two per 100,000 people, and it is estimated that as many as 30,000 Americans may have the disease at any given time.

  • Although the life expectancy of an ALS patient averages about two to five years from the time of diagnosis, this disease is variable and many people live with quality for five years and more.  More than half of all patients live more than three years after diagnosis.

  • About twenty percent of people with ALS live five years or more and up to ten percent will survive more than ten years and five percent will live 20 years. There are people in whom ALS has stopped progressing and a small number of people in whom the symptoms of ALS reversed.

  • ALS occurs throughout the world with no racial, ethnic or socioeconomic boundaries.

  • ALS can strike anyone.

  • The onset of ALS is insidious with muscle weakness or stiffness as early symptoms. Progression of weakness, wasting and paralysis of the muscles of the limbs and trunk as well as those that control vital functions such as speech, swallowing and later breathing generally follows.


Have you participated in the ice bucket challenge? Let us know how it went, and share your video with us on our facebook!