Ice bucket challenge raises awareness, draws criticism

By now, for those that have a social media profile, countless videos have been viewed in which family, friends and countless celebrities douse themselves with a bucket of ice water, and then challenge others to do the same. The Ice Bucket Challenge aims to raise awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, by asking people to either drench themselves or donate to the ALS Association, or both. Celebrities from former President George W. Bush to Lady Gaga have accepted the challenge, and the campaign has raised more than $79.7 million dollars to fight the neurodegenerative disorder as of Monday from both existing and new donors. During the same period of July 29 to August 25 of last year, the organization raised only $2.1 million. Former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates, who has ALS, started the challenge. Some are arguing that although ALS organizations are raising more than they would have otherwise, those donations still aren’t enough to make a difference. But that doesn’t hold any weight with people like Debbie Therrian, whose brother, Nate Moats, was diagnosed with ALS over a year ago. “When my brother was diagnosed a year and a half ago, I didn't even know anything about it besides it was Lou Gehrig's disease,” said Therrian, who organized her own ice bucket challenge at Country Chevrolet in Colville last Friday. “So to have this become daily conversation, and the amount of money raised, all of us families that are dealing with this are thrilled; we just want awareness and a cure.” Therrian’s challenge also donated to the local ALSSO group that directly helps ALS patients with everyday needs for those in the Idaho and Spokane area. “This challenge has truly become a blessing,” Therrian added. Around $2,000 a month for medication But not everyone is convinced that the challenge is a positive thing. “I just think it’s sad that we need a viral Internet gimmick to get people’s attention,” said Tina Leben, 34. “I mean, if it works, I guess that’s good, but it doesn’t say much about us as caring humans if you need constant publicity stunts to shake us out of our apathy.” The ALS Association engineers adaptive equipment for patients to help them breath. It also helps fund research on cures. There's currently only one FDA-approved ALS medication. According to the ALS Association Evergreen Chapter, a patient without health insurance would pay about $2,000 a month for medication. “It’s great that this (Ice Bucket Challenge) has helped ALS to come to such a huge awareness in our culture,” said Jennifer Hanson, Development Director of the ALS Association Evergreen Chapter. The chapter covers Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Alaska, with a staff of 11 providing assistance to over 470 ALS patients. The Association is funded through donations and grants. “It’s what we can to do as individuals to help people who are going through this disease, whether they are newly diagnosed or are nearing the end of their lives,” said Hanson, whose own mother died of ALS 22 years ago. The Evergreen Chapter will host its annual Walk to Beat ALS Saturday, Sept. 13 at 9 a.m. at Mirabeau Park in Spokane Valley. For more information, call Hanson at 509-863-4321 or go to