Administrators to take the ALS challenge

Many people, in Webster City and beyond, are taking up the ice bucket challenge to raise awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and raise money for ALS nonprofit groups.

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative illness which affects the brain, spinal cord and muscles, according to the ALS Association. That progressive degeneration in motor neurons leads to death.

The ice bucket challenge tasks people with dumping ice-water on their heads, often in creative fashions, donating to an ALS nonprofit group, and challenging others to do the same. Those who don’t take the challenge are asked to donate more.

The challenge has brought in a large amount of funding for those groups. The ALS Association announced on Wednesday that it had received $94.3 million in donations since July 29. In the same time period last year, the group said it raised $2.7 million.

Several administrators at Webster City Schools have announced that they will be taking part in the challenge today and Friday. Becky Hacker-Kluver, Webster City Middle School principal and Webster City High School co-principal, and Kelli Reis, Webster City Middle School assistant principal and Webster City High School co-principal, will do today’s challenge at 3:30 p.m. on Elm Street in front of the middle school. Hacker-Kluver said others are welcome to join them in doing the challenge or bringing funds to donate.

Reis, Hacker-Kluver, and Jason Halverson, Webster City High School assistant principal, will be getting soaked again on Friday at 3:30 in front of the school sign on the west side of Webster City High School. Those interested can also attend that challenge, take part in the challenge, or donate.

A personal connection

Hacker-Kluver said she’s thankful that the challenge has brought attention to the disease. Her brother passed away from the disease at the age of 52. She said it began with a tingling in his leg and it took months to diagnose the disease.

“I remember actually getting the call from my brother on Feb. 3, 1997. It was a very, very sad time for our family as this was basically a death sentence, no cure had been found,” Hacker-Kluver said.

Over the course of several years, the disease progressed. Hacker-Kluver said ALS first took her brother’s muscles in his legs and he had to travel by wheelchair. It then moved to his arms so he couldn’t use his hands. It later spread to his lungs and all other muscles in his body. She said it caused a lot of grief for him and the rest of his family. He could no longer work, drive a car, get in or out of bed without medical equipment or just go for a walk.

“Even though he struggled physically with this disease, he continued to use his intelligence and mind each and every day,” Hacker-Kluver said.

On Oct. 29, 2002, he passed away. Hacker-Kluver said before he died, her brother could slightly blink his left eye and slightly move his thumb. She said her brother fought a valiant battle against ALS with courage each and every day that he coped with the disease.

“He used to always say, ‘I am really a healthy guy; I just have ALS,'” Hacker-Kluver said.

Hacker-Kluver and her family regularly attend the ALS Walk in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in honor of her brother. She said support from her many friends, colleagues and relatives helped her get through those tough times. Now, with the popularity of the ice bucket challenge, Hacker-Kluver is encouraging community members to donate in support ALS research.

“This awareness of ALS through this ice bucket challenge has been astounding. We just pray each and every day that a cure can be found,” Hacker-Kluver said.