Get wet for ALS

What do Cookie Monster, George W. Bush and the Buffalo Bills have in common? They have all taken the ALS ice bucket challenge. The challenge has swept the nation and is raising funds for amoytrophic lateral sclerosis, a fatal disease.

The disease, often called Lou Gehrig’s Disease, affects an individual’s nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. According to the ALS Association, there are about 5,600 people diagnosed with ALS in the United States each year. To raise awareness and funds for the disease, many throughout the country – celebrities and non-celebrities alike – are dumping ice water over their heads. The challenge all starts with a nomination from a friend, family member, coworker or complete stranger. The nominee then has 24 hours to dump a bucket of ice water over his or her head or donate $100 to the ALS Association.

Those who choose to accept the donation are called to make a donation in the amount of their choosing.

The ice bucket challenge really started to gain momentum on social media at the end of July. According to the ALS Association website, 1.1 million new donors have been recorded. As of Saturday, more than $62.5 million has been raised through new and existing donors.

“This is a creative way to spread ALS awareness via social media and in communities nationwide,” Barbara Newhouse, president and CEO of The ALS Association said in a statement online.

Locally, residents are joining in on the icy fun as they complete the challenge. Chautauqua County Legislator George Borrello recently took part in the ice bucket challenge at Sunset Bay. He was among a group of 15 people who have taken the challenge on the beach. According to Borrello, Sam Bova, owner of Sunset Bay Beach Club and Cabana Sam’s, was initially nominated and it took off from there. Borrello said the viral spread of the challenge is “pretty amazing.”

“This is a really devastating disease and it’s considered a rare disease, however in our area it is very prevalent. In the Western New York area we have a much higher incident of ALS ,” said Borrello. “It’s really great to see this much attention brought to it because despite it being a rare disease, it’s an incredibly devastating disease. This much money being raised will help hopefully find a cure.”

The Sunset Bay challenge started by raising around $600 but has reached nearly $1,000. Borrello said there are more individuals who have yet to take the challenge. Four people who participated in the challenge did it with a twist. Jim Neaf, Kurt Wodja, Danielle Crino and Vince Monaco all completed the challenge with the help of a tractor. Borrello said he is happy to help out a good cause since he has had close connections to ALS – his great uncle Paul Notaro and good friend from Houston, Texas, Bill Howell both died from the disease.

“For such a rare disease I have known two people personally who have died from it. I was happy to do the challenge. It was certainly a shock to the system to get that (water) dumped on top of me,” he said.

Across the county line, more people are taking the ice bucket challenge. About 30 employees, friends and family members of the South Dayton Hotel took the challenge recently. Owner Jeff Stoltenberg said the challenge was in memory of his grandmother and second generation hotel owner, Louise Zollinger who died in 1985 from ALS. Pete Stoltenberg, Jeff’s father, took the challenge in honor of his late mother-in-law. He challenged every corrections officer in the state to take the ice bucket challenge. Larry Zollinger who also participated in the challenge said he personally knew three individuals with ALS. In addition to the men, both Jodi Oakes and Kathy Stoltenberg completed the challenge. The women said the challenge was colder than they anticipated.

“It was shockingly cold. It took your breath away it was so cold,” Oakes said.

Kathy, who was worked as a nurse, has seen many suffering from ALS. She was happy the weather was nice for the challenge. Kathy had plans to hold her breath during the challenge but the water was poured too quickly before giving her a chance. Jeff stressed the importance of not only doing the challenge but giving money. The South Dayton Hotel wants to donate at least $1,000 to the ALS Association; any amount short of that goal will be donated by the hotel. In addition to completing the challenge, the hotel then challenged the staff of the Trillium Lodge in Cherry Creek, the Barr in Cherry Creek and the Mustard Seed in South Dayton.

“Don’t just participate in the bucket challenge, donate too,” Jeff said.

For all those completing the challenge in the future, Borrello suggests pouring your own bucket. He had someone pour the water over his head at a much slower pace than he would have done. Due to the slower pace, Borrello said the challenge was “more excruciating.”

“I found out too late that I should have just done it myself. It was a little more excruciating to have someone else pour it more slowly on me. My advice is to pour your own bucket for a quicker experience,” Borrello said.

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