MINNEAPOLIS – The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has taken social media by storm, with nearly every "friend," "follower" and savvy user taking part or at least glimpsing the unusual fundraiser.
And that has translated into real money and real awareness for the ALS Association, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Chapter.
"It's just unbelievable, the amount of awareness raised because of the Ice Bucket Challenge," said Linda Lorentzen, Vice President of Care Services at the local ALS Association chapter.
Lorentzen and others say the local chapter typically receives 2 to 3 donations per day to their general fund. This month, they're seeing 100 to 300 donations per day. They won't know an exact dollar amount raised until they compile the August financial reports in mid-September.
But already, the national ALS Association reports they've raised nearly $80 million nationally since the fundraiser started on July 29. That's in contrast to $2.5 million raised during the same time period last year.
"The money continues to come in. They're going up by about $10 million a day," Lorentzen said.
Lorentzen said the national organization will be "good stewards" of the money – creating committees to determine how much to spend on research and how much on services and equipment for those dealing with the disease. The local chapter specifically hopes to reduce or even eliminate a waiting list for just that kind of assistance.
"Power wheelchairs, manual wheelchairs, any kind of equipment that might compensate for someone when they have a weakness," Lorentzen said.
And that kind of help can make all the difference in the world. Just ask Kathy Hult, a woman who's battled the disease for the last 15 years. Her life changed with her diagnosis – and the expectation she would live only another two to five years.
"That's when you take a look at your life, and you live one day at a time," she told her cousin, KARE 11 Reporter Karla Hult.
Both Kathy and officials with the ALS Association say beyond the dollar donations, there's a real impact of people understanding what was before a little-known disease.
"There are existing donors, and there are 1.2 million new donors. So that's 1.2 million people that potentially didn't know what ALS was. And it's an incredible gift," Lorentzen said.
"It makes me so happy to see the level of caring, people saying the word 'ALS,' even some people pronouncing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and knowing what that is," said Kathy.
She added: "To get this kind of attention and awareness to the disease, you feel a sense of hope, that eventually they're going to understand more about why some of us do get the disease and are there ways to prevent it, to deal with it, to slow the progression and ultimately, to cure the disease."