You’ve all seen it by now.  Those videos…you know the ones.  And no, I don’t mean this one…

http://youtu.be/fQK6X5ZPDH4

I mean the ALS ice bucket challenge videos that have become a viral sensation this summer. You can’t log on to any social media site without seeing at least 5 new ice bucket challenge videos.  And it’s not just your ”friends” and family who are completing this challenge. It is celebrities and politicians (not this one, however: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/14/obama-ice-bucket-challenge_n_5680033.html)….

athletes and opera singers.

From Leonardo DiCaprio…

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…to Jennifer Anniston

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…..everybody’s doing it!  But where, you might wonder, did this whole thing originate?  It seems to have materialized out of thin air.  However, that is not the case and you may be surprised by the answer.  The challenge originated on the golf course as a way for golfers to support their favorite charities.  Then on July 15th, golfer Chris Kennedy took the challenge and tagged his cousin whose husband has been living with ALS for over a decade.  After his cousin completed the challenge and posted her video, her Facebook network overlapped with another person’s who had a connection to former Boston College baseball player, Pete Frates, who has been living with ALS for 2 years now.  Boston is where this thing really took off as college and professional baseball players who knew Pete from his playing days began to post their videos.  From there the challenge grew into the behemoth it is today, raising an estimated $94 million compared to last year during the same time period where they raised only about $2 million.  Yes, you read that right….that’s $92 million dollars more than last year.  Behold the power of social media!

One of the major things that the ice bucket challenge has done is to bring ALS – a disease not nearly as common in the mainstream vernacular as say, breast cancer- to the forefront.  ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), often called Lou Gehrig’s Disease after the famous New York Yankee who suffered from it, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain.  The neurons that send messages from the brain to the spinal cord and then to muscles in the body slowly die therefore causing loss of all muscle movement.  This often leads sufferers of ALS to become completely paralyzed and in need of assistive technology to help them breathe or communicate.  As of now there are no known cures or treatments for ALS.  There is one medication shown to slow the degenerative nature of the disease and others on the horizon, which is where the astounding amount of money raised from the ice bucket challenge may prove to be useful.  Fortunately for those living with a family member who has been diagnosed with ALS, only a small percentage – approximately 5-10% of all cases – are considered inherited.  Most cases of ALS reported in the U.S. are considered sporadic meaning they can happen to any person at any time but usually to people between the ages of 50 and 70.  Some symptoms include muscle weakness in the arms, hands or legs, difficulty projecting the voice, and cramping of muscles, especially those in the hands and the feet.  Everyone displays symptoms differently though so if you feel like you maybe experiencing any of these, please do not hesitate to contact your doctor and check out www.alsa.org for lots of information.
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