The Ice Bucket Challenge: Raising money and awareness for ALS

WTVM's Dave Platta takes the ice bucket challenge
WTVM Anchors Jason Dennis and Barbara Gauthier take the challenge
WTVM Anchors Jason Dennis and Barbara Gauthier take the challenge
Sports Leader 9's Kim Smith and Chief Meteorologist Derek Kinkade
Sports Leader 9's Kim Smith and Chief Meteorologist Derek Kinkade

(WTVM) - What's cooler than being cool? Ice cold – and recently, it seems like almost everyone has taken the frosty plunge.

Celebrities have done it. Your family and friends may have done it. Some members of our staff at WTVM have done it. And chances are, you've probably even done it yourself.

It's the Ice Bucket Challenge, and over the last couple of weeks it's completely saturated social media.

The premise is simple enough: pour a bucket of ice water on top of your head, record it, and then challenge others to do the same within 24 hours or make a donation to the ALS Association.

But there's more to the viral Ice Bucket Challenge than getting doused with ice water. It's about raising awareness and money to fight Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

This new viral trend has certainly lived up to its goal, raising more than $16 million for the ALS Association from July 29 through Aug. 18. Last year, less than $50,000 was raised in the same time frame.

"It's huge," said ALS Association President Barbara Newhouse in an interview with TIME Magazine. "It's a game changer for the ALS Association."

On their official website, the ALS Association defines the condition as "a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death.

"When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed."

So how did the Ice Bucket Challenge turn into a campaign for ALS? It all started when golfer Chris Kennedy in Sarasota, Fla. was chosen by a friend to participate in the challenge, which wasn't linked to ALS at the time. Participants would then pick a charity to receive donations. Kennedy selected ALS because one of his relatives suffers from the disease and nominated his wife's cousin to take the challenge. She accepted, and soon challenge videos started popping up all over social media. Learn more about the Ice Bucket Challenge's origins at this link.

If you'd prefer not to take a freezing cold bath, there are other ways you can help raise awareness and contribute to the cause:

*Make a donation at and encourage others to do so as well

*Learn more about the ALS Association by visiting their website and share what they're doing to fight the disease on social media

*Sign up for one of the many fundraising events in your area, like the upcoming ALS 5K Run/Walk for Jeremy Williams on Saturday, Oct. 4 in Harris County (Click here for more details and sign up here)

Whether or not you decide to take the frigid challenge, it's important to remember why you're doing it in the first place.

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