'Ice Bucket Challenge' is hot, hot, hot

New Hampshire Union Leader
August 11. 2014 11:02PM
University of New Hampshire men's basketball coach Bill Herrion, foreground, completes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge with the assistance of his son, Ryan, on Monday behind the UNH fieldhouse. (YOUTUBE SCREEN GRAB)

Amy Cohen sat in silence and stared at her computer screen.

“I’m speechless,” Cohen said. “I’m just amazed.”

Cohen, the fundraising and community relations manager for the Northern New England chapter of the ALS Association, just got an email from her boss at the national ALS Association. Last year at this time, the national organization had $22,000 in revenue on the books. This year for the same time period, it’s $1.35 million.

“People who say this isn’t making a difference — they’re just wrong,” said Cohen. “I have professional and personal ties to this cause. This is just amazing.”

Last month, people started participating in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Last week, the challenge went viral — spurring thousands of people to get involved in the campaign to raise awareness about ALS and raise money to fund research to find a cure for the disease.

ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is a progressive neuro-degenerative disease that damages nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, rendering the sufferer immobile.

It’s commonly referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s disease” after the former New York Yankee first baseman who died from the disease in 1941.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is simple: donate $100 or dump a bucket of ice water over your head and donate $10.

All donations are made to the ALS Association and of course, you can always donate more than the specified amount. Once you make your choice, you must nominate a few friends to complete the challenge and post a video or photo of your nominations, and the dumping, on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Participants range from celebrities to local business owners to CEOs. On Monday, University of New Hampshire’s head men’s basketball coach Bill Herrion tweeted a photo of his son dumping the ice water over his head.

The challenge has also brought negative feedback. Videos and commentary have surfaced that say the challenge doesn’t mean anything because dumping ice water on one’s head doesn’t cure ALS.

“They’re right — it doesn’t cure ALS — but it was not meant to cure ALS,” Cohen said. “It’s through donations that we’re able to provide scientists with funding to possibly find a cure. The challenge is connected to an increase in donations.”

Scott Spradling agrees. Spradling is a former WMUR anchor and president of the PR firm Spradling Group. Last week, he dumped a bucket of ice water on his head, donated to the northern New England chapter of the ALS Association and challenged three friends to do the same.

“I was having lunch with my kids (when I was challenged) and quickly pulled together a strategy,” said Spradling. “I recruited my two twins to dump the ice water on me. I think it’s the fun factor of it — it’s simple. I joke that my Facebook newsfeed was soaking wet within a couple days last week with the number of people jumping in and getting involved.”

Franklin Pierce University professor Dr. Jennifer Parent-Nichols issued the challenge to a group of second-year graduate students pursuing a doctorate in physical therapy.

They are all in a fundamental neurology class with Parent-Nichols in which ALS is discussed.

On Monday, 33 students stood along the Amoskeag Falls — near the school’s Manchester campus — and dumped ice water on their heads.

“It was very cold,” said Kristina Koenig, president of the student association of physical therapy students, which donated $5 for every student who participated, a total of $165 to the Northern New England chapter of the ALS Association.

The group then challenged three other physical therapy programs throughout the country — the University of New England, the University of Texas at El Paso and the Franklin Pierce physical therapy program in Arizona.

“We have the ability to inspire our patients, but even greater, is the ability of our patients to inspire us,” Parent-Nichols said.

An ALS charity walk is set for Oct. 5 in Manchester. For information visit http://webnne.alsa.org.

Union Leader Staff Writer Amanda Beland was dared to take part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. As of 5 p.m. Monday, she had less than four hours left to complete the assignment. Stay tuned for more.

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