ALS Chapter of Columbus & Southern Ohio Gets Big Boost From Ice Bucket Challenge

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UPDATED: Thursday August 21, 2014 10:18 AM

Since the bucket challenge started in July, the local ALS chapter says its fundraising has more than doubled.   Last year, it raised $47,000.  The number this year is $109,000 and growing.

That’s giving hope to OSU researchers looking for cause and for those suffering with the disease.

At 59- years-old, Gary Ellis' body began to fail him - rapidly.  His diagnosis came just three years after he retired.  “He was a firefighter paramedic volunteer; that's the hardest thing for him having someone else take care of him,” says his wife, Pam.

Ellis lost his ability to talk, then his ability to walk after his diagnosis in January 2013.  He uses his computer to talk and chooses each letter with a blink of his eyelids.  “I am grateful to be alive.  Everyday above ground is a good day.  I continue to be amazed by the love and support by family and friends,” he says.

His wife Pam says she's proud of the public's new found interest in the disease.  “The raising awareness for ALS is just remarkable I'm sure there are people who are dumping buckets on their head probably never heard of ALS.”

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ALS - also known as Lou Gehrig disease named for the famous baseball player - has left researchers struggling to find a cause and a cure.  More than 70 years since Gehrig’s death, researchers say the average life expectancy for someone diagnosed with ALS remains just 3 to 5 years.  “The reason for that is that ALS is a lot more complicated than many of us thought 80 years ago", says Dr. John Kissel.

Researchers have found that ALS is a cluster of diseases, making it difficult to find a treatment.  The average age of a person diagnosed with a disease is between 45 and 65 years old.

Dr. John Kissel says researchers at Ohio State are determined to understand what makes this disease tick.  “The primary focus on ALS now is trying to find out why these cells die, but I think with that work going on is that will give us and idea on how to treat it.”

As for Gary and his wife, they hope support for ALS research will continue to grow so someday a cure can be found.  “It's all about finding a cause, finding a treatment, hopefully finding a cure .  That's what we want a cure, because no one should have to go through this,” Pam says.

Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center says it has 40 to 50 researchers working to study what causes ALS.

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