Alberta celebrates anniversary of the #ALSIceBucketChallenge

Talk about the community getting behind a terrific cause. It’s been one year since the ALS Society, and those affected by this disease, were given an amazing gift.

Alberta raised a remarkable $2.8 million during the 2014 Ice Bucket Challenge, of which funds were allocated to national ALS research and support services within the province.

The Challenge went viral, allowing for ALS to become a commonly known disease. That’s a critical thing, as ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) doesn’t get near the attention that many other diseases get these days. It was also inspiring to see the sweeping support across not only this continent but around the world.

In total $17 million was raised in Canada, with $11.5 million allocated to research and $4.4 million allocated to supporting people living with ALS across the country, according to the ALS Society.

Brain Canada responded to the generosity of Canadians by donating an additional $10 million to the $11.5 million dedicated to research, bringing the total investment to $21.5 million.

Officials say the impact of the Ice Bucket Challenge has allowed ALS Canada to accelerate the national research program as well.

There has been a 70% increase in peer-reviewed grant applications from Canadian researchers, and investments have been made in a clinical trial for the drug, pimozide.

Due to the funds raised by the Challenge, the ALS Society of Alberta has also been able to work collaboratively to explore new ideas that will enrich existing programs. The equipment loan program has been enhanced with the introduction of new technologies, such as a communication device that is controlled by the gaze of the eye.

In addition, the Society has been able to allocate funds for those who cannot afford transportation to the clinic or appointments, and has continued to provide all programs and services free of charge. An ALS diagnosis can cost a family up to $250,000.

Client support services in Alberta aim to ease the financial stress on those affected by ALS by providing communication and mobility equipment at no cost.

Additional support services include home support visits, coordination of care in the community, support groups, support for children through the Support for Champions program and advocacy for the best possible support for people living with ALS.

One year after the Challenge took place, the ALS Society is encouraging Albertans to celebrate the remarkable success of the initiative.

Albertans can get involved by posting a video online with the hashtags #ALSIceBucketChallenge and #ALSAB, or they can donate by visiting

According to the ALS Society of Alberta, ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) is a progressive neuromuscular disease in which nerve cells die and leave voluntary muscles paralyzed. Everyday, two or three Canadians die of the disease.

ALS can strike anyone. It most often occurs between the ages of 40 and 70 but can also occur in older and younger adults, and rarely in teenagers. ALS is usually fatal within two to five years of diagnosis.

The symptoms and the area of the body first affected can vary from person to person.

Typically ALS involves muscle weakness, fatigue, wasting, stiffness, loss of tone, cramping, twitching, and hyper- and hypo-reflexion. The onset of the disease may occur in nerves associated with muscles of the upper or lower limbs, the throat or upper chest area.

In rare cases, the muscles involved in breathing are first affected. These symptoms can result in decreased coordination in the hands, tripping and falling, weight loss, and difficulty swallowing, speaking or breathing.

This past June marked the 12th annual Red Deer Walk for ALS. Over the past several years, in the neighbourhood of $100,000 has been raised at each walk.