The “Ice Bucket Challenge” consists of people getting drenched with buckets of the chilly water on video, posting that video to social media and then nominating others to do the same to draw attention to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — a disease that attacks nerve cells and causes paralysis. According to the ALS Association, patients in the later stages of the disease are completely paralyzed, yet in most cases, their minds remain sharp and alert. The average life span after being diagnosed is only two to five years.
Melissa Pike, of Marietta, said her grandmother died of the disease. Pike called it “heartbreaking” to watch her go through the ordeal, especially after conquering rheumatoid arthritis.
“The last time that I saw her, she was a shell, and you could tell she was in there,” Pike said of her grandmother, who had previously worked as a nurse. Pike, who works at a call center, has donated $100 to go toward researching the disease after she was challenged by Democratic Rep. Stacey Evans of Smyrna.
People can either accept the challenge to pour ice water on themselves or make a donation to an ALS charity, although many people around Cobb who have taken up the summons are doing both.
One such person is Emily Lembeck, the superintendent of Marietta City Schools. She was challenged by Board of Education member Jason Waters, who said in his video he got involved in honor of a cousin who has the disease. Lembeck said she took part because she has experienced the death of a friend to ALS.
“I really dislike being cold and dreaded the deluge of ice water, but ultimately knew it was absolutely nothing compared to what those afflicted with ALS suffer,” said Lembeck, who will be donating $50.
Members of the Marietta Police Department’s youth program soaked the three-member K-9 unit after Officer Mark Bishop’s cousin challenged him. They then challenged Cobb police officers and the Marietta Fire Department.
On Kennesaw State University’s campus, President Dan Papp and Athletic Director Vaughn Williams sat together as cheerleaders dumped coolers of frigid water over their heads.
Williams said, “It was great to do some good for a great cause with my boss.” While he attested the water was cold, Papp claimed, “I used to live in New Hampshire, and a warm day there was often colder than the ice bucket barrage!”
Papp and Williams also knew people who have died of ALS. In both their cases, it was former colleagues Papp and Vaughn had separately known before they came to KSU.
The pair plan to donate to the ALS Association, but declined to say how much.
Williams sent out challenges to Acworth Mayor Tommy Allegood, Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay and every athletics director and college president in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Papp opted to challenge Cobb Board of Commissioners Chairman Tim Lee, Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews and Cobb County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Connell.
Mathews and Connell have both complied.
The mayor explained he took up the challenge after he was also singled out by Kennesaw Police Chief Bill Westenberger. “I’m also working for the Heart Association — the heart walk — and it’s just a great cause,” said Mathews, who once had a neighbor who had ALS. “It’s a horrible disease.”
He said an auction to be the person to dump the water on his head raised $150, and he kicked in $100 of his own as well. He went on to challenge his daughter and her new roommate at KSU.
Connell said he couldn’t ignore a request from Papp, whom Connell said he greatly respects.
“I also believe strongly that we have to invest in research for this terrible disease,” Connell said of why he volunteered to have five gallons of the water poured over him. He did not wish to disclose the amount he plans to donate.
Others in the community who have risen to the Ice Bucket Challenge include Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin, Marietta High School Principal Leigh Colburn, Smyrna Police Chief David Lee and Marietta attorney Justin O’Dell.
Famous figures have ranged from Bill Gates to Jon Bon Jovi, Kermit the Frog and former President George W. Bush, who challenged another former chief executive: Bill Clinton.
The stunt is working, too. Former Cobb Board of Education member Theresa Plenge, whose brother was diagnosed with ALS in February, said last year $2 million was raised around the world for researching the disease. At press time, the ALS Association reported $62.5 million had been donated.
“The fundraiser and how social media has helped it explode is just tremendously exciting to those of us affected with a loved one with ALS and the patients themselves,” Plenge said.
She said her brother, a former Houston police officer, is already in a wheelchair because of the disease. The 57-year-old has sold his business that made entryways and he is on a monthlong trip exploring the Pacific Coast.
“He’s really a strong person,” Plenge said. “He’s quite a hero to me for how he’s handling the diagnosis.”