Chilled for a cause: ALS fundraiser hits Destin

Savannah Chastain
Employees from Destin’s Margaritaville restaurant participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge outside the harbor front restaurant Saturday morning.

If you have been on social media lately, chances are you have seen the trend that is sweeping the nation. It’s called the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” and it goes like this: A friend nominates you to take the challenge by dumping a bucket of ice water on your head. If you fail meet the timeline, or decide to forgo the chilly feat you are challenged to donate $100 to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association. You have 24 hours from the time you are nominated to comply, and once you take the challenge, you can nominate three more friends.

Destin local, Randa Fowler was recently nominated by family members to take the challenge, and for her, the challenge is a personal one.

“My uncle, Randy Simkins has ALS and is in his final stages,” she said. “When he was diagnosed just over a year ago, I didn’t even know what ALS was. It’s just a very sad disease, and very rapid.”

ALS disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease (after the famous baseball player who suffered from it in the late ‘30s) affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control muscle movement. The disease deteriorates muscles in the body often beginning in the neck and limbs and inevitably leads to full bodily paralysis.

 “I heard the name in passing, but you really don’t pay attention until someone you know is diagnosed,” Fowler said of the disease. “All your muscles just deteriorate, it’s slow and painful.”

Fowler told The Log that her 64-year-old uncle’s health has declined much faster than expected, leaving the family devastated.

“I didn’t know how fast and how rapid it was,” she said. “He was a very healthy, had just retired from the railroad as a conductor, and used to be in the Air Force. Itook my daughter to see him last week because he is in his final stages. Once your body starts it’s over. He’s still aware of what’s going on around him,” she said. “It’s just terrible.”

As horrible as the disease is, awareness and fundraising through the social media stunt has begun to make national waves. Ice water challenges have been circling the web for about a year, with various charities being chosen for donations, but none have taken off to the scale of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Over the past few weeks, national celebrities have begun to take part in the challenge including basketball star, LeBron James, T.V. legend, Oprah Winfrey and Microsoft founder, Bill Gates.

“I think it’s good as in it’s making everyone aware,” said Fowler, “but still so much needs to be done in research for this, that the money could really help.”

As the challenge has the option for participants to douse themselves in ice, but not make a donation, speculation has begun to arise as to the success of the campaign. However, the ALS Association reported Monday, in an online statement that it has received $15.6 million in donations this year between July 29 and August 18, compared to $1.8 million during the same period last year.

“I’m happy that it’s making people aware,” said Fowler, “But, absolutely please donate.”