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Walk aims to keep attention on ALS

Participants of Walk to Defeat ALS make their way around Columbus Commons on Sept. 21. More than 2,000 students, patients, family and community members walked more than a mile to raise awareness and provide funding for ALS research.

Participants of Walk to Defeat ALS make their way around Columbus Commons on Sept. 21. More than 2,000 students, patients, family and community members walked more than a mile to raise awareness and provide funding for ALS research. Credit: Rubina Kapil / Lantern reporter

Dumping ice cold water on someone, recording it and putting it on social media — the so-called “Ice Bucket Challenge,” — is not the only way to raise awareness for ALS.

The Central and Southern Ohio Chapter of the ALS Association hosted its annual Walk to Defeat ALS at Columbus Commons on Sunday.

ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS is a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that affects muscle movement in the body. It can eventually result in total paralysis, and the life expectancy once someone is diagnosed is about two to five years.

Currently, there is no cure for ALS. 

With 171 registered teams, the event raised more than $309,000 as of Sunday morning, said Marlin Seymour, the chapter’s executive director. The organization hopes to raise a total of $740,000 after holding similar events in Cincinnati and Dayton. 

As of Sunday evening, the Central and Southern Ohio Chapter had raised nearly $337,000, according to the chapter’s website.

Proceeds from the walk allow the organization to provide equipment and services to ALS patients and families in the local area, as well as help fund ALS research at Ohio State, Seymour said.

“Fundraising is important, but it is also important to bring attention to the need for funding to further research,” said Dr. Stephen Kolb, an assistant professor of neurology and molecular and cellular biochemistry.

Kolb said he encourages students to donate to the ALS Association or OSU’s research program.

“(The Ice Bucket Challenge) needs to be more than a wonderful moment that has come and gone, but more of a wonderful moment that results in continual awareness and fundraising for research,” he said.

Some OSU students were among the more than 2,000 participants on Sunday.

“It’s been four years since my grandpa passed from ALS, and we will be at this event until it stops happening,” said Justin McCuen, a second-year in psychology. “It’s important to be involved in as many charities as you can. It’s a very rewarding experience and atmosphere.”

Graduate student in social work Cara Iacoboni has attended the walk for five years and plans to come again in the future.

“It’s a great time to come together and remember those who have passed and see others supporting the cause as well,” Iacoboni said.

McCuen, Iacoboni and many others participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge before the event, and hope to see continued awareness because of it.

“One of the wonderful things about this Ice Bucket Challenge is that for the very first time, ALS has been brought to the forefront,” Seymour said. “It’s not a disease that gets the big numbers like cancer and diabetes, so it’s hard to put the needed focus on it.”

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