ALS goes arctic

By Maggie Weiss

Maggie Ice Bucket Challenge

To most people, the last thing they want to do is have a bucket of ice-cold water poured over their head, regardless of what reasons have inspired this act. Recently, however, people all over the world, including St. Kate’s students, have found a reason to share in this venture.

Unless you have been spending the summer under a rock, you may have heard about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, a fundraising activity that has recently gone viral on many social network outlets, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr.

The trend was started earlier this summer by former Boston College baseball player Peter Frates; he wanted the challenge to promote awareness of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), which is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by muscle spasticity and weakness that can cause difficulty speaking, swallowing and even breathing. His goal is to help to raise money in support of research toward finding a cure.

According to the Mayo Clinic website (, the disease often starts in the limbs before spreading to other parts of a person’s body but does not affect the eyes or various bodily functions until near the end of the patient’s life. There is no cure for ALS, and the disorder usually leads to death.

Since the beginning of summer, thousands of people have completed the Ice Bucket Challenge to help raise awareness and money for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease and named for the famous baseball player who was diagnosed with the disorder. Even St. Kate’s students have taken part, including Sarah Larsen ’17 and Whitney Brothers ’17.

“St. Catherine University was challenged, and there was extra supplies in the quad,” Brothers said. “Brigette Marty had all sorts of buckets, both really tiny, like a pail and rather large like a three gallon bucket, filled with ice water.”

The Ice Bucket Challenge involves taking a bucket of ice-cold water (ice cubes optional, but much appreciated), and dumping it over someone’s head (sometimes your own), and then nominating at least three friends or family members to continue the challenge within the next 24 hours. If the person poured a bucket of water over their head, they were supposed to donate $10. If not, they were asked to donate $100. In many cases, the people who were challenged donated to the ALS Association or other charities, as well.

Among those challenged were many politicians and celebrities, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, musical artists Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift, and actors Ansel Elgort, Matt Smith, Misha Collins, Karen Gillan, and Chris Pratt.

“I was inspired by a video of a man who was living with ALS,” Larsen said. “He talked about how much it meant to him that this disease was finally getting recognition nationally. It was touching.”

Actor Matt Damon was also nominated to complete the challenge; he poured a bucket of toilet water over his head to raise awareness of the amount of clean water wasted for the challenge. This controversial fact has sparked debate for many participants as they have completed the challenge.

Overall, the event has raised about $111.6 million in Ice Bucket Challenge donations as of Sept. 2014.

For more information on ALS or the challenge itself, visit And for those looking to donate to a worthy, yet chilly cause–you have 24 hours!

Maggie can be reached at

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