LAURINBURG — The “Ice Bucket Challenge,” after making the rounds of social media for weeks, arrived on Main Street on Friday when Laurinburg police and restaurant workers doused each other with pails of freezing aqua pura, all to raise awareness of a debilitating brain disease.
The challenge is similar to the “Cold Water Challenge” that circulated at the beginning of the summer, but focuses on raising money for and spreading knowledge about Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Gehrig, a popular baseball player, saw the end of his career after being diagnosed with the disease in 1939.
The challenge was started nearly a month ago by former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates, who suffers from the disease. Challengers tag or “call out” people in online videos to either donate to the cause or be soaked, but many do both. The challenge has spread to everyone from former president George W. Bush to pop star Justin Timberlake.
From July 29 to the present, the ALS Association has received $5 million in donations, compared to $1.12 million during the same period last year. Of this year’s donors, 70,000 have never before contributed to the cause.
“We have never seen anything like this in the history of the disease,” said Barbara Newhouse, president and CEO of The ALS Association, in a news release. “We couldn’t be more thrilled with the level of compassion, generosity and sense of humor that people are exhibiting as they take part in this impactful viral initiative.”
The association works to combat the disease that disrupts contact between the brain and the body’s muscles, rendering sufferers immobile in two to five years.
On Friday, Laurinburg police Chief Darwin Williams, Assistant Chief Cliff Sessoms, Capt. Terry Chavis and Sgt. S. Chavis received an ice bath courtesy of Brittany Wilkes, Kayla Smith, Shonda McClennahan and Lilly Ruan, of Miyako Japanese Restaurant. The four officers soon returned the favor as a small crowd gathered to watch, shrieking with laughter at the faces of those being soaked.
“That water is something special,” said Williams, draping a towel around his head. “It’s cold, you hear me?”
But his wife Latonya and daughter Darasia had no mercy, teaming up to pour more ice over his frozen scalp. As Darasia said, it was his turn — she and a group of her family members had gathered on Green Street last weekend to accept the challenge, made by relatives in Maryland.
For them, the cause hits close to home. Latonya’s uncle Curtis Bradham suffers from the disease.
“I saw a strong man who traveled around the world, who everybody could count on, go to someone who couldn’t do anything for himself,” said Glenda Smith,Latonya’s mother and Curtis’ sister.
While widly popular, the challenge has come under some scrutiny for what some say is a wasteful practice. But for Smith, anything that brings awareness to her brother’s pain is a blessing.
“I would throw a bucket of fire over me if it would heal him,” she said.
Laurinburg police extended their challenge to city hall employees and the Bojangles’ breakfast crew, some of whom had meandered across the street to watch. Miyako staff challenged employees of Family Dollar, Bowling Eye Clinic and Wooly McDuff’s Neighborhood Grille.