I think this ice bucket challenge craze that is going on right now is just amazing. It has been such a benefit to raising awareness and funds for the ALS Foundation. I heard today that the donations have topped $94 Million! I was reading about it on a bulletin board at work and I was surprised at how many people had family members and friends who had suffered from this rare but just horrendous disease.
I have been nominated for the challenge by a couple of people, but A) like most sane people - I hate freezing cold water, though I could probably tolerate it for a few minutes B) I hate seeing videos of myself at least twice as much as I hate freezing cold water, and C) I'm a writer and I feel that my words have more power than yet another video of someone dumping water on their head.
When I first heard about this challenge going on, my first thought was for one of my co-workers who died from ALS a few years ago. Brett Butler wasn't a very close friend of mine, but he had the kind of personality that made a big impact on me. He was just a fun guy and you could tell from the start that he really loved his family - his wife and three daughters.
I always used to tease him about his name. "Oh Brett Butler, Brett, you rascal - y'all come help me" I would simper in my best Southern belle imitation. "I'sa comin' Miss Scarlett" he'd reply.
Since I was raising three boys and he was raising three girls, we had a lot of conversations about parenting and just life in general. How to stretch a dollar and manage to raise your kids right and save for college, etc. Just normal stuff and no shadow of what was on the horizon in his life. But just a few years after I worked with him, he was diagnosed with ALS and he died just a couple of years later, probably from respiratory failure as is typical for the disease. I think he was maybe 47 or 48 years old. Far too young.
He lost the ability to walk, he lost the ability to speak, lost the ability to feed himself or even do the simplest of daily tasks for himself. He not only was robbed of the ability to support the three daughters and wife he loved so much, but in the end, he had no choice but to become an enormous burden to them.
Brett was a big, barrel-chested guy that looked like he could pick up a school bus - to think of him ending up like Dr. Stephen Hawking, ALS's most famous victims, just breaks my heart. That's so wrong - that a proud man like that could be so humbled and brought down by such a terrible disease.
These people need help and deserve our help. No one should have to suffer like this. No family should have go through the grief and stress of watching their husband and father wither away like this and then be left with a mountain of medical bills to pay.
There has got to be a way to defeat diseases like this and we have to help. I don't care if you pour a bucket of ice water over your head or not, but donate. It's too late to help my friend Brett, but there are more than 5,000 people who will get this same catastrophic news this year. Let's hope that next year, there will be a lot fewer because of all these ice bucket challenges...
ALS Association - please make your donation here. I did.