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Antrim/Peterborough

Making a splash with a cool challenge

ANTRIM/PETERBOROUGH: Local groups get in on the fun of the ‘ice bucket challenge,’ raising money for ALS research

  • About 30 Great Brook School staff threw ice water on themselves in the name of the ice bucket challenge in support of ALS research, calling out their other district schools.
  • About 30 Great Brook School staff threw ice water on themselves in the name of the ice bucket challenge in support of ALS research, calling out their other district schools.
  • About 30 Great Brook School staff threw ice water on themselves in the name of the ice bucket challenge in support of ALS research, calling out their other district schools.
  • About 30 Great Brook School staff threw ice water on themselves in the name of the ice bucket challenge in support of ALS research, calling out their other district schools.
  • About 30 Great Brook School staff threw ice water on themselves in the name of the ice bucket challenge in support of ALS research, calling out their other district schools.

A line of 30 teachers and staff stand in a row in the parking lot of Great Brook Middle School in Antrim. At their feet sit buckets of varying size, each filled with water and — by now — mostly melted ice. “Great Brook rocks!” the staff proclaims as they each in turn lift their buckets and dump the water over their own heads.

Their proclamations are quickly followed by high-volume, high-frequency cries as the icy water hits them.

The Great Brook staff had just completed the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

The concept is simple. Dump a bucket of ice water on yourself, and you get to challenge three others to do the same. If you go through with the challenge, you pay $10 towards funding research for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, usually referred to as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. In some variations, getting wet exempts you from donating. If you chicken out, you pay $100, and of course, lose the right to see three of your closest friends or family also get soaking wet and cold.

It’s a simple enough concept, but what started out as an Internet fad has been sweeping the nation all summer, delighting people who get to see their favorite actors, directors, politicians and millions of everyday people shiver for a good cause. And it’s worked, according to the ALS Association, to the tune of raising over $100 million in a single month — very nearly $101 million, in fact. That’s compared to the $2.8 million raised last year during the same time period.

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Eventually, people with ALS lose the ability to initiate and control muscle movement, which often leads to total paralysis and death within two to five years of diagnosis. There is no cure and only one drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which can only extend life for a matter of months.

Scott Baldwin, the physical education teacher at Great Brook, was the one to first suggest that the school get in on the challenge, he said in an interview Thursday — right after dousing himself along with the other teachers and staff.

“It’s for a great cause, and it’s great team building and a fun challenge,” said Baldwin. “I’ve been watching it all summer on the news and on Facebook, and I thought it would be a good opportunity for the school. Being involved in sports, I was aware of it and how it’s affected some of the people in sports.”

Great Brook called out their fellow staffers at the South Meadow and ConVal High School. Each of the staffers who participated donated $10 to the cause.

The schools aren’t the only local organization getting in on the challenge. On Aug. 17 the Knights of Columbus at the Divine Parish in Peterborough took the plunge as well. Mike Barrett of Temple was one of those who doused himself, and said in an interview Thursday that they arranged to do it just as Sunday services were letting out at Divine Parish, so the congregation could watch.

“I know there’s no cure and it’s very debilitating,” said Barrett of ALS. “It’s such a nasty disease and we were overwhelmingly in support of helping out.” Barrett said he doesn’t have any personal connections with the disease, but spoke to a woman who watched them take the challenge whose husband had recently passed away from ALS, who came up to them after the challenge to personally thank them for their support of ALS research.

“When one does charitable work, you often don’t see the immediate benefits of it. But to me, my $10 was helping this person feel better, and that made me feel better myself. And it was completely unexpected,” said Barrett.

Jeff King of Peterborough was another Knight who took the challenge that day — for him, it was the second time. Challenged by a friend through Facebook, King said he had already done the challenge a few days before with his children, but was willing to do it again.

“I thought it was a lot of fun, and a unique way to raise funds,” said King. “I’m sure lots of other organizations are kicking themselves, thinking, ‘Why didn’t I think of this?’ People respond to challenges like this. I’m glad it’s been so successful, and hopefully they make some strides. It’s a terrible thing to have to live with, so hopefully they’ll be able to do something about it.”

Since the Knights of Columbus is a Catholic organization, they noted that they restricted each member’s donation to non-embryonic stem cell research. When they contacted the ALS Association about it, said Barrett, they were told to simply mark their checks indicating the restriction.

Barrett said the Knights are putting their three challenges to use by calling out the male members (as the Knights is a all-male organization) of Trinity Evangelical, Monadnock Congregational, and All Saints Episcopal Church.

What donations will do

“The word gratitude doesn’t do enough to express what we are feeling right now,” said Barbara Newhouse, president and CEO of the ALS Association in a press release issued Friday. “We recognize a profound sense of urgency and are engaged in discussions about how we’re going to put this money to work in the short term and into the future.”

The ALS Association, a national non-profit organization, has four main goals — research, care and support of those with ALS and their families, advocacy and education. The funds will go towards all of these avenues.

These funds will be used to fund cutting-edge research as well as care and support to people living with the disease,” said Newhouse. “Now and in the coming weeks, we will be able to enhance our strategic plan, reformulating and recasting strategies with input from stakeholders, including our donors, our chapters, and most importantly, people living with ALS and their families. We want to move quickly but decisively as our ultimate goal is to use this incredible generosity in a way that has the biggest impact on fighting this disease.”

According to the release, the organization has seen three million new donors since the Ice Bucket Challenge first began to go viral. In the Aug. 26 press release, Newhouse said that many have called asking about how this money will be spent, but there has not yet been a breakdown of how percentages of the influx of donations will be allocated. ALS research and care services to people living with ALS are top priorities for the Association, she said.

“This is isn’t a matter of spending these dollars quickly — it’s a matter of investing these dollars prudently to achieve maximum impact in our quest to help people living with the disease and those yet to be diagnosed,” Newhouse said in the Aug. 26 release.

Donations can be submitted through the ALS Association website via credit card, checking account, PayPal or Amazon accounts at www.alsa.org, by printed donation form, also available on the ALS Association website, and check. Mailed donations can be sent to The ALS Association, Gift Processing Center, PO Box 6051, Albert Lea, MN 56007.

For inquiries regarding the use of your donation or other information about the Ice Bucket Challenge, email inquiries@alsa-national.org.

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