I went to Hahnemann University Hospital five months ago to meet with Dr. Terry Heiman-Patterson and visit some patients that had been diagnosed with ALS. It was heartbreaking. How can you go from being a completely healthy, functioning individual and progress to a state of total incapacitation in a matter of months? You literally lose everything.
The only time we really heard of ALS awareness prior to the Ice Bucket Challenge in our community was the Phillies Phestival, held annually to raise money specifically to "strike out ALS." This year's event was held in May, and in the months following (like so many years before), ALS would fall to the wayside. People would go about their lives, forgetting all about it until the next Phillies Phestival would be scheduled.
But, oh, how the universe works in mysterious ways. Along come a couple of individuals that dedicate themselves to raising awareness for this debilitating disease by dumping a bucket of ice water over their heads and challenging their family members and friends to do the same.
A ripple effect is born. Then the videos go viral, and not only do those people's friends and family start dumping buckets of ice water on their heads, but athletes and celebrities take on the cause. And in the meantime, in the background of all of this chaos and the social media frenzy, the donations come pouring in; more than the ALS Foundation has ever seen before.
If you didn't know about ALS before, it would be impossible not to know now. You can't go five minutes a day without hearing about it! This campaign has emerged and branched out in massive, national proportions, and will probably be marked as one of the most successful awareness and fundraising events for a disease or cause in history.
And as a follow up to my last article about being grateful for what we have, I can't stress enough how lucky we are to be healthy, to be able to walk, talk, eat, laugh, and enjoy ourselves. Right now, I have the ability to describe to you my feelings and emotions, because in the blink of an eye, all of that can be taken away.
I wasn't aware that only 30,000 people in the country are currently diagnosed with this disease. I wasn't aware that the disease could take your life anywhere within 6 months to 5 years. It's an aggressive, nasty disease that completely robs you of quality of life. But now, we know.
Appreciate all you have, because the awareness that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has brought to the forefront of our minds on a national level cannot be ignored.
In time, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge will fade away, but as a community, we have a responsibility to keep this cause in the forefront of our minds, and not let it fade into the background to become just another "internet sensation."
I, Bernie Parent, challenge YOU to join me in keeping ALS awareness alive on a community level. Let's bring support to OUR homefront and help the ALS Hope Foundation, located right here in Philadelphia, PA, reach their goals for those suffering with ALS in our very own backyard.
I'm calling out ALL Philadelphia athletes (present and alumni), sports fans and corporations alike to walk with me at the 7th Annual Hope Walks for ALS at 12 p.m. on Sunday, October 19th, 2014 at Valley Forge Military Academy, 1001 Eagles Road, Wayne, PA 19087.
Our goal is to raise $100,000, but personally, I think we can exceed that. The first 500 individuals at the registration table that day will receive a free hard cover copy of my book, Journey Through Risk and Fear.
Whether you'd like to walk with me for a small donation of $25, or donate on a corporate level with sponsorships, visit www.alshopefoundation.org TODAY!
Let's see how many saves we can make as a community in the City of Brotherly Love!