HORNELL — Thursday afternoon may have provided a near perfect day for a dip in the swimming pool, but members of the the Saint James Mercy Hospital's Dialysis staff had a different idea. At 2:30 p.m. they joined a growing list of notable participants in the "Ice Bucket Challenge" to strike out ALS in front of their workplace at the Mercycare Building on Bathesda Drive in Hornell.
The ice bucket challenge is a national drive to raise awareness and money in support of people suffering from ALS. In the ice bucket challenge, participants pour ice cold water over their heads to temporary simulate the paralysis felt by ALS patients.
ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease" after its most famous combatant is a neurodegenerative disease that kills motor function related neurons in the brain and spinal cord. When motor neurons die the brain can no longer control muscle function, causing paralysis and eventually the death of those effected by it.
After seeing the ice Bucket challenge trend go national, dialysis department staff member Sue Bob became motivated to organize the rest of her department to take it on in memory of two former colleagues, Kathy Barnes and Sue Stillman, both Hornell residents who passed away from the affects of ALS.
The staff shared fond memories of their former co-workers ahead of the challenge, remembering their gentle natures and how they were always influencing others to get involved in the community and fundraising efforts.
"I will always remember what a good friend and caring nurse she was," Bob said of Barnes.
Nervous chatter filled the dialysis room as the staff waited for their buckets to fill completely. Collectively they expressed their anticipation by saying "this is crazy" but they were not deterred from their commitment to follow through for this good cause. In all, 11 of 12 members of the dialysis department took part in the Ice Bucket Challenge.
When asked what she thought of the experience, Bob, mastermind of the event said, "It was a little chill for a cool day, but it was such a special experience for all of us."
To continue to raising awareness the staff have passed the challenge on to three other local organizations including Rev. Matt Sassano and Fresh Start Church, and St. James Mercy Hospital radiology, and x-ray departments who will dedicate their challenge to their colleague Ann Kanopa, who is currently battling ALS. The challenged parties have 24 hours to complete the challenge or make a donation to the ALS Association.
While no one can confirm the exact origins of the "Ice Bucket Challenge," the ALS Association has confirmed that it's fulfilling its intended purpose of kicking off a grassroots movement to raise money and awareness for the disease.
According to a press release from the ALS Association, as of Thursday, they have received $7.6 million in donations as compared to $1.4 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to Aug. 14), and have netted the organization 145,918 new donors in that time period.