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posted by Sandy Fails Comments: 1 comments

This ice bucket campaign began a couple of years ago, with the instigator challenging certain friends to either donate to an ALS-related organization or drench themselves with ice water. The “strike-out” language harkens back to Lou Gehrig, the famous baseball player who had the disease and first called widespread attention to it. The bucket metaphor, I assume, references the sports ritual of dousing the coach with the team’s cooler of ice water at the end of a winning game.

Yes, it’s silly – some might say annoying – to have these videos flooding the social media. But donations to ALS organizations are up 1,000% since the campaign started. And people are grinning, giggling and finding out more about a brutal disease that’s still not well understood.

I liked doing the ice bucket challenge in memory of my mother. It’s true, I could have remembered her in a somber, mournful way; but I’d rather honor her by doing something playful and goofy. She would have chosen that, too.

Also true, I could have raised money for ALS research by training for an athletic event and taking donor pledges. My legs would be less jiggly by now, but the ice water act was faster and more fun. From what I hear, ALS organizations are a couple hundred dollars richer because Facebook friends watched my shivery shower, shook their heads, smiled and made donations. Strange how that works.

This morning as my husband and I hiked up the mountain in a chilly drizzle, I thought about how this challenge also fits Crested Butte. We’re used to being assaulted by freezing-cold water.

A friend recently suggested that my hiking group replace this week’s trek with a leisurely swim in Long Lake – which sounds to me as relaxing as lounging naked in an ice-water bath.

Meanwhile, my son Chris is bike touring around Iceland, pedaling and camping in icy, wind-driven rain. Who but a Crested Butte native would use “summer vacation” and “hypothermia” in the same sentence?

No, cold water doesn’t scare us.

Crested Butte’s citizens also know how to not take themselves too seriously. One mayor left his mark by dancing in a pink tutu; another by skiing through fire. Both genders of townsfolk don boas and heels at the slightest excuse, ride all night on bikes decorated as fish, and ski downhill dressed as giant bananas. We specialize in being silly for good causes.

Tomorrow will bring my husband’s turn. He’s typically not one to jump on popular bandwagons, but he, too, loved my mother and wants to honor her. As the water splashes over him and he sputters with shock, I’ll imagine my mother’s lovely laughter. Sometimes you just gotta get goofy.

Comments: 1

posted on Mon. September 15, 2014 | 5:21pm


As usual, your blog posts make me chuckle and think. While my ALS related efforts are more on the contribution side, given that “goofiness” is not something that anyone would apply to me, I do understand the pain of this malady to both the sufferer and those who care about him or her. A male cousin on my father’s side died rather quickly of ALS a few years ago and my dear elderly aunt and uncle still grieve daily for his death before them.

My experience with ALS is a much longer one though. Back in the summer of 1972, I was asked to help Stephen Hawking with the editing of some of his lecture notes. We sat in a tiny office in a chalet in the French Alps at a summer school conference while he dictated to me changes to his work. At that time, he could still speak, though haltingly, but not write. He would just about get himself from his wheel chair to a desk chair and back. It was all I could do to resist helping him, which he did not want.

Over the years, visiting his office in Cambridge or at some conference or seminar, his slow change to what we see now was extraordinary. But, like your mother, Stephen’s humor has never left him as we have seen recently on The Big Bang Theory. Admiration for them both cannot be overstated and the courage you and your family had in dealing with ALS is special and touching.

Perhaps in Crested Butte, pouring hot water over your heads would have been more of a challenge.

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