Unless you have been living in a cave or don’t have access to a computer, you most likely have seen the ALS Ice Bucket Challenges that have spread like wildfire on Facebook and other social media platforms.
Celebrities such as The Rock and Jimmy Fallon to sports giants like LeBron James and Peyton Manning have all taken the challenge since it started to sweep across the nation. The premise of the challenge is simple: dump a bone-chilling cold bucket of ice water over your head within 24 hours of being challenged by someone, or donate to The ALS Association. After accepting the challenge, you then may challenge three other people to do the same.
So far, the results have been amazing. In the three weeks since the challenge began, The ALS Association has received $41.8 million in donations compared to $2.1 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 21). These donations have come from existing donors and 739,275 new donors to the association.
For folks like Randy Floyd of Mount Airy, the awareness the ice bucket challenge has brought to the disease has been a Godsend. Floyd, who was diagnosed with ALS in June of 2012, has lost 12 members of his family to ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
“It means a lot to me and my family because we, for so many years, have been affected by it. And it is not that we are wanting the recognition, but we are wanting the awareness out there to let people know what it is,” Floyd said. “The more people that know about it, the more it will help spread awareness and help find a cure for it. My family, personally, as recently as two weeks ago, we lost a family member that had ALS, and there are still seven of us living with it right now.”
There are two types of ALS, Floyd explained, sporadic and familial. Sporadic ALS can affect anybody, while Familial ALS is hereditary, the type that affects Floyd’s family. Unfortunately, he has way too much experience with the fatal disease, including watching his mother die from ALS at the age of 47.
“My twin brother and sister were only 12 years old at the time and they helped us look after my mother because she was bedridden the last two or three years of her life. I’ve seen it all my life,” Floyd said. “Everybody in our family, we have seen so much of it, it is devastating to anyone of them because anytime anybody in our family has any kind of sign or symptom, that is the first thing that pops in our mind.”
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The degeneration of motor neurons means the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle development is lost over time. It is a fatal disease with no cure.
Floyd said early warning signs include muscle weakness such as trouble walking and difficulty gripping and holding things with your hands.
“It’s sad to know that once you get that disease, it’s a death sentence. It’s not like going to the doctor and them telling you something is wrong, but this medicine will cure it or help, or this procedure will fix you,” Floyd said. “It can be very disturbing and heartbreaking, but all things happen for a reason. God doesn’t put anything on us that we can’t handle. I don’t look for any sympathy. I just want to be known as somebody who fought this disease and fought hard to try to find a cure for it, so that in the future if somebody is ever diagnosed with this and the doctor tells them you have ALS, they can say, ‘Hey, don’t worry. We have a cure for it now.’ That is my hope and prayer that that day is coming, and I really hope and believe that day is coming soon.”
That’s a big reason why Floyd, 51, watches each and every ice bucket challenge he sees with excitement. Among his favorites was celebrity Charlie Sheen’s video. Sheen’s video included a big twist when he turned the bucket up – no water, but $10,000 in cash he said he would donate to The ALS Association.
“That was just fascinating because you thought he was going to criticize it, but he didn’t. He ended up saying he was going to donate $10,000,” Floyd said. “That stood out to me, but some of the heartbreaking ones are the ALS patients themselves that are confined to a wheelchair and they had that bucket of ice water dumped on them. I like to see them all and I try to watch every one of them. Some of them bring tears to your eyes and some make you laugh, but they are working. They are getting the word out, and that is what it is all about.”
To learn more about ALS or to donate to the cause, visit alsa.org or you can also to http://webnc.alsa.org/goto/floydsfighters-randy to find Floyd’s personal page, Floyd’s Fighters. Last year his walk team raised $6,000 for ALS before raising an additional $12,000 this year for the Jim Catfish Hunter Chapter of the ALS.