Local News

Silly soaking spreads awareness, raises funds for ALS

Posted August 15, 2014 1:03 p.m. EDT
Updated August 15, 2014 6:47 p.m. EDT

A few weeks ago, former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates challenged people to pour a bucket of ice water on their heads to bring attention to his fight against ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.

Frates, 29, couldn't have been prepared for how quickly his suggestion would bring awareness – and research funds – to the ALS Association.

ALS attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. It's causes are not fully understood and there is no cure.

Mary Elizabeth Hare, 10, is one Triangle girl who is trying to help the cause in memory of her grandfather.

William Beal Jr., better known as "Pop" to Mary Elizabeth, died 15 years ago after battling the disease.

"It's kind of cool," Mary Elizabeth said of the ice bucket challenge. "We have our team called Pop's party people."

Mary Elizabeth and her friends have made story cubes to display at an annual ALS Walk and golf tournament that tell the story of baseball great Lou Gehrig.

Gehrig, who was diagnosed with the disease at 36, died shortly after retiring from Major League Baseball.

Mary Elizabeth said the goal of fundraising is to find a cure.

"It means a lot less people would suffer from it," she said.

Wes Hare, Mary Elizabeth's father, said he has no doubt that researchers will find a cure.

Since Frates issued the first ice bucket challenge, the ALS Association has received $7.5 million.

Jerry Dawson, the president of the Jim "Catfish" Hunter Chapter of the ALS Association, says half of Americans don't even know about the disease. He said the ice-bucket challenge is helping in a new way.

"Here, we're seeing about two-fold so far, but it's really catching fire over the last couple of days," he said. "For us, it's a crisis. Awareness is everything. That's what drives people to support your cause, so if they don't know about it, they're not going to support it."