Willimantic, Conn. – On Sept. 4, more than 100 students, faculty and staff from Eastern Connecticut State University converged on the lawn of Gelsi Young Hall to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The Eastern community was challenged by President Elsa Núñez, who completed the challenge last Thursday with her senior staff of seven vice presidents.
Mike Burke, executive director of the ALS Association Connecticut Chapter, visited campus for the event and introduced the challenge and the cause it supports. “ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a degenerative disease that is always fatal and has no cure and no treatment,” he said. Nearly 6,000 new cases are diagnosed every year, with a life expectancy of two to five years after diagnosis. There are approximately 30,000 Americans with ALS at any given time.
According to Burke, The Ice Bucket Challenge officially started this past July when former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2011, tried to spread awareness and have a little fun at the same time. “He and his friends decided that a little cold water on the head is nothing compared to what people with this disease have to go through,” Burke said.
“I think it’s great that students, faculty and staff can all come together as a community to help raise awareness for ALS,” said Jason Coombs, director of Eastern’s dining services. “I’m going to challenge other Chartwells (Eastern’s food service provider) accounts in the region.”
Sophomore Ashley Bressette, a communication major, said, “I’m happy to go to a school that comes together to support important causes such as ALS.” Abby Perriera, a sophomore majoring in social work, added, “I’ve done the challenge already on my own, but it was great to do it with a bunch of friends from Eastern.”
In regards to giving, Burke said, “Whether or not the students can afford to donate is inconsequential. What’s important is that this younger crowd has done its part in raising awareness of a terrible disease that, up until recently, few people were aware of.”
The ALS Association Connecticut Chapter reported that as of Sept. 3, $107.4 million has been raised among the 38 association chapters nationwide, compared to the $3.2 million that was raised last year—this year’s amount does not include donations to other ALS organizations.
Also among the participants were members of Eastern’s sports teams. “The basketball team was happy to come and show our support for ALS and Eastern,” said basketball player Brandon Yarborough, a senior majoring in music. Baseball player Corey Keane, a senior majoring in sports and leisure management, added, “I’m glad a teammate recruited us to show up. I plan to give to ALS later today.”