Local impact of ALS ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’

(Provided Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – By now, it’s clear that the so-called ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ has become a viral hit to help in the movement to fight ALS.

As of Sunday, according to the national ALS Association, donations had reached more than $62 million.

But for people like Rich Zoellner, it’s more than a viral campaign on his Facebook feed. This is as personal as it gets.

“I felt the first symptom in my left hand,” he said. Rich was diagnosed with the disease in February, 2013.

Those in the fight to beat this disease never dreamed that – with the power of social media – their battle would gain millions of citizen soldiers around the world.

Jean Ann Stafke learned she has ALS just nine months ago.

“When I was diagnosed, they said ALS is an orphan disease,” she said. “It doesn’t get any attention, it doesn’t get much money. To see this grow and go viral has just been amazing.”

The support has come from everywhere, including friends, neighbors, coworkers, and even celebrities. Friday night, Rich Zoellner saw that first-hand. He got to spend time back stage at the KISS and Def Leppard concert. Then came the real surprise.

“Two songs left, somebody comes and gets me and goes ‘you’re going on stage.’ I’m like ‘what?’” he said.

Zoellner joined the music legends on stage as they took the ice bucket challenge for ALS.

“Incredible,” recalled Zoellner.

Cindy Wise, director of the ALS Association’s local chapter, said they haven’t tallied the local financial impact. But beyond dollars, she says it’s brought hope.

“I think that the ALS Association and the ALS challenge – the battle – has really come to the forefront. People are starting to get it and that’s exactly what we needed. It helps our fight and I think that it’s a game changer,” said Wise.

Anyone wanting to take part in the “Walk to Defeat ALS” on September 27th at White River State Park can find more information by clicking here.

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