You might recall a few years ago when social media feeds were flooded with videos of people dumping buckets of ice cold water over their heads.
These participants were working to raise awareness and money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a fatal neurological condition affecting nerves and muscles commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
According to the ALS Association, the viral trend raised $115 million for the organization. These funds are credited with helping researchers identify a specific gene linked to ALS.
Now, nearly three years after the Ice Bucket Challenge, the fight continues.
On March 25, the ALS Association Florida Chapter hosted its Greater Tampa Bay Walk to Defeat ALS in Downtown St. Petersburg. The event was just one of many walks around Florida throughout the year as the organization’s primary fundraiser.
About 500 people attended the walk and more than $161,000 was raised for the ALS Association.
In addition to advocacy and helping fund research, the organization also offers free services to patients and families across the state. Julie Niehoff, the ALS Association Florida Chapter’s director of communications and marketing, explained the importance of the walk.
“This disease has been around for over 100 years – it’s horrific what these folks have to go through – and our hope is to find a cure,” said Niehoff. “But the only way that’s going to happen is by helping us spread awareness and getting involved.”
Friends, families and volunteers made up the crowd at the event, bringing together members of the community in support of those being affected by the incurable disease. Doctors and students from the USF ALS Clinic in Tampa were there to spread the word on the services it has provided since 2010.
“It’s kind of a one-stop shop, if you will, for all of their ALS care,” said Brittany Harvey (pictured right), a research coordinator at the clinic.
As a comprehensive resource for ALS patients, families and caregivers, USF’s multidisciplinary clinic offers one-on-one visits with neurologists, therapists and care coordinators.
Harvey said that the current medical treatments for ALS are limited as research is ongoing, but events like the Walk to Defeat ALS help raise the awareness and money needed to hopefully solve this issue.
She suggested that the upcoming generations will help lead the charge against ALS.
“There’s still advances in medicine that need to be made,” Harvey said. “We’re hoping that this next generation of students is kind of looking toward that to help us open up some new horizons and opportunities to help people.”
For more information on the ALS Association Florida Chapter, the Walk to Defeat ALS and ways to get involved, check out the organization’s website here.
More information on the USF ALS Clinic can be found here.