ALS bucket campaign continues in Prince Albert

Jodi
Jodi Schellenberg
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The ALS Bucket challenge continues to spread across the city, with challenges going out every day.

On Friday, Chamber of Commerce president Merle Lacert and the Daily Herald’s own Robyn Nagy took on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, getting soaked to raise awareness and funds for the disease.

“I think it is a unique as an effort to fundraise and bring attention to ALS,” Lacert said. “I think again it just comes down to showing support. I know with the Chamber, that is what we like to is show support within our community.”

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge started in the United States with Pete Frates, who is a former baseball player in Boston and has ALS.

“I believe it was just an ice bucket challenge between friends and family and someone must have had a connection within the athletes sector because once they started picking up, that’s where it kind of grew,” said Rebecca Grima, director of marketing and communications for ALS Canada.

“We saw it really pick up in Canada (in early August) when Sidney Crosby posted his video and that’s when Canadians started kind of taking interest and getting on board,” she added.

The donations have been flooding in recently. On Aug. 19, the online donations were about $340,000 and climbed to more than $2.5 million on Friday.

“It is crazy in a good way,” Grima said. “Canadians -- it is not just that they are acting on the ice bucket challenge -- they are donating and they are making a difference.”

Many different awareness campaigns have visible components to raise awareness -- such as Movemeber -- and many people think they are gimmicks.

“I don’t think of (the ice bucket challenge) as a gimmick -- I think it is a really fun way to engage the public for a disease that is so devastating,” Grima said. “It is accessible and anybody can do it.”

Grima believes the challenge has helped ALS organizations in a great and meaningful way.

“The ice bucket challenge has really transformed ALS in terms of our challenge with always trying to open up the conversation to introduce people to ALS and introduce them to the ALS community,” she said.

“Now that the ice bucket challenge has happened, the awareness has driven it over the roof and now the conversations we can engage in can go to the next level and we can start honing in more on education and research and advocacy on behalf of the families living with this disease.”

Approximately 2,500 to 3,000 people are living with ALS across Canada and 1,000 people will die of ALS every year.

“ALS is a neurological disease and it is doesn’t affect as many families as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or Huntington’s per se-- I say that per se because the lifespan of a person living with ALS is two to five years after diagnosis,” Grima said. “The death rate for ALS is much shorter -- it is a much faster progression than any other neurological disease.”

Other diseases have gotten more exposure and Grima believes that is due to the larger numbers of people with other diseases.

She doesn’t know if the reason is there are less survivors of ALS or if the disease just isn’t on people’s radar.

“In the past before the ice bucket challenge, all of our fundraising activities or all of our events we have put on have always been with people who have a personal connection to ALS -- either they have had a family member affected or a friend who had ALS and they wanted to get involved,” Grima said.

“They were only aware upon having a personal connection to it,” she added. “With the ice bucket challenge, what has happened is it has opened up to the mass audience, who may not have a connection to but obviously care about the cause.”

Although the challenge has been great for raising funds this year, there is a possibility it could just be a one-time awareness campaign. Grima hopes that isn’t the case and it might be something that happens once a year.

“That really all depends on the public -- they are basically in charge of this challenge,” she said. “It started in a family circle within the ALS community and has kind of been driven through (and the) primary drivers were social media. Hopefully they will continue.”

As for Prince Albert, the citizens will hopefully continue to raise awareness about ALS.

“There may be individuals within our community who are affected by Lou Gehrig’s Disease and this is just another opportunity for the Chamber to show it is engaged and in support of efforts like this as well as efforts to get our community engaged,” Lacert said. “We have seen a lot of uptake and I think that is just great -- it just shows we have a very engaged community, which continues to make Prince Albert an awesome place to be.”

Both the Herald and the Chamber and accepting donations for ALS Canada. People can also continue to donate at ALS.ca/icebucketchallenge

Organizations: Prince Albert, ALS Canada, Chamber of Commerce Daily Herald

Geographic location: Canada, United States, Boston

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