NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — It is a disease that first drew national attention when Yankee great Lou Gehrig succumbed to it decades ago.
Now ALS, or what many still refer to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is getting more attention than ever, thanks to the ice bucket challenge. It’s brought former political rivals John McKinney and Tom Foley together. And they aren’t the only high profile people taking part in the challenge. The growing list includes everyone from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to celebs like Justin Timberlake and Martha Stewart.
Mike Burke, of the ALS Assoc. of Connecticut, said, “Before this started two weeks ago we were that orphan disease, if you will, that was struggling to get any front page news.” That’s not the case these days thanks to the excitement caused by the challenge on social media.
The idea was the brainchild of former Boston College baseball star Pete Frieties who was diagnosed with ALS in 2012 and his friend, fellow ALS patient Pat Quinn. “It’s really beyond anything we could have imagined,” Quinn said.
The icy challenge has become red hot on social media. It’s already raised about $4 million for ALS research. Several News 8 staffers are among those taking part, from news producer Kim Kern and videographer Tom Parent… who got creative with a “Go-Pro” camera.
It’s all in good fun to help fight a disease that is always fatal, with no known treatment and no cure.
Burke said, “The progression of this disease is defined by a degradation of the ability of a patient to use their hands, hug someone they love or eventually even say ‘I love you.’ It turns into complete paralysis, the inability to eat, inability to breathe, inability to communicate and ultimately death.”