Ice bucket challenge providing “great public awareness” of ALS

Saskatchewan Roughriders' Rob Bagg completed the ice bucket challenge on Friday. Global News

REGINA – From politicians to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the ice bucket challenge is going viral in North America and beyond.

“It’s been great public awareness,” said Lisa Pluhowy, president of the ALS Society of Saskatchewan.

The concept is to dump ice cold water on your head and then challenge others to do the same. Those challenged can then either do the chilly task and/or donate $100 to an ALS organization.

The challenge started in the United States and has spread rapidly over the past weeks with a steady stream of videos of the activity popping up on social networking websites. ALS Canada is raising money from the challenge.

Pluhowy said that it’s important for all Canadians to know about the disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which gradually paralyzes the body.

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“Eventually, they lose their ability to hug, speak, and even breathe,” she said of people who have the disease.

There is no cure or effective treatment, and the ALS brings with it tens of thousands of dollars of direct and indirect costs.

“On a younger family, it’s financially devastating. Not only can you not work, but you have to find the money to get the equipment to even remain at home” she said.

According to ALS Canada, two out of 100,000 people 18 years and older are diagnosed with ALS each year. About 3,000 Canadians live with ALS, and 90 per cent die within five years of being diagnosed.

“Our survival rate: there are no survivors. So, unfortunately, when a family is exhausted because they go through that disease progression, their legacy kind of dies with it too,” said Pluhowy.

But the ice bucket challenge’s legacy is continuing.

“I’m going to go to a store and just buy some ice and do it in the parking lot, I think,” said 17-year-old Mark Wiseman, who travelled from Nova Scotia to Regina for an unrelated Sunday sports competition.

At the time of publication, nearly $55,000 had been raised for ALS Canada.

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