By now you have seen the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos of people getting doused with ice water and then nominating others to embrace this call to action. They encourage friends and relatives to accept the challenge, donate money to an ALS charity or do both.
In mid-August, Facebook reported that 2.4 million videos related to the Ice Bucket Challenge had been shared and more than 28 million people posted, commented or liked these posts.
As the executive director of the Skokie-based Les Turner ALS Foundation, I am invigorated by the response to this campaign. Some videos have been funny, others creative, and some very emotional. These videos provide hope to the ALS community – hope that the dialogue around ALS will continue and funding will continue to increase, long after the Ice Bucket Challenge has ended.
While we have not raised tens of millions of dollars like the national organization and we will not receive any of the funds they have collected, the Les Turner ALS Foundation has experienced a significant increase in fundraising. Since the Challenge took off, we have raised over $550,000, a nearly 600 percent increase over what we raised last year in the same time period.
When people donate to the Les Turner ALS Foundation, their contribution stays local. They are helping support three research laboratories at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, a patient center at Northwestern Medicine and a range of patient services, such as home visits, support groups and grant programs.
Critics of the campaign have said it fails to move the needle in terms of awareness, so for those unsure of what ALS is, it’s a terminal neuromuscular disorder that attacks a person’s muscles, gradually robbing them of their ability to walk, speak, eat and breathe, yet usually keeping their mind intact. At any given time, approximately 35,000 people in the United States are living with ALS. Currently, there is no prevention or cure.
I am grateful for every donor and every dollar, as these funds guarantee the programs we offer will continue and new programs can be created, both in research and care; however, the public needs to know that the millions of dollars continually referenced in the media will not benefit the Les Turner ALS Foundation, only those funds donated directly to us will be allocated toward our local programs.