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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Keep a good thing going

Barbara Lombardo, Charlie Kraebel
and Mike O'Sullivan, executive editor, city editor
and publisher of The Saratogian, The Record
and the Community News wore Pink Sheet shirts
to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
Photo by Chris Brown.
Many years ago, when the only person I’d heard of having ALS was Lou Gehrig, the aide of a longtime local assemblyman came down with the disease.  This vivacious middle-aged man was helplessly bedridden, his mind sharp while his body quit on him. Over the years, every now and again I’d learn of someone losing a close friend or relative to ALS, including the fairly recent death of a friend’s sister-in-law.

Suddenly, ALS awareness has gone viral thanks to social media and the ice bucket challenge. In just three weeks and a day, the ALS Association has received $41.8 million in donations, including gifts from 739,275 first-time donors. During that same period last year, from July 29 to Aug. 21, it received $2.1 million.

The number of new donors is as astounding as the amount of money, when the ice bucket splash has dried up into old news. The key will be to keep giving.

“ALS was first found in 1869 by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot, but it wasn’t until 1939 that Lou Gehrig brought national and international attention to the disease,” the website notes.

It’s taken 75 years for something -- the ice bucket challenge – to return ALS to the national spotlight.

ALS stands for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive degenerative disease that prevents the brain from telling the body’s muscles what to do.

I thought it was a great idea when I first heard of the challenge. But being a woos, when my friends Dennis and Debbie Murphy took the challenge and Dennis challenged me, my first thought was, “Couldn’t I just make a donation?” Then I decided to go for it. And when it turned out Publisher Mike O’Sullivan and City Editor Charlie Kraebel had been challenged as well, we agreed to don our Pink Sheet shirts and do it together. Mike’s son Kevin accepted (a little too gleefully, if you ask me) the task of dumping the ice water.

It was a little cold and wet, but it was fun — and quick.
John Gray made a good point in his column this week when he admonished people whose videos didn't say a word about ALS and acted as if it was all just a joke about ice water. His lead was no joke: His mother died of ALS in their video. 

I think we did it OK in ours. I challenged Maura Pulver, the owner of Five Points Grocery, my corner store; Police Chief Greg Veitch; Marquita Rhodes, as incoming president of Soroptimist International of Saratoga County (or you may know her from the Albany Business Improvement District); and my son David.

I think I even beat Derek Jeter to taking the challenge, though I think he might have reached a few more people. You think?  

The challenge captured people’s attention, thanks to the power of social media. With or without the ice, let’s remember next year.

You can print out a form to donate, go to, or mail a check to The ALS Association Gift Processing Center, PO Box 6051, Albert Lea, MN 56007.


Blogger Debra Murphy said...

Great column, Barb. Thanks for publicizing this horrible disease.

August 21, 2014 at 7:20 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please donate but skip the ice and water. Areas of the US, not to mention the world, are rationing water while we're wasting it for the sake of a facebook post

August 27, 2014 at 8:42 PM 

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