ALS has soared into the spotlight this summer, and thanks to a clever challenge donations are up more than 3,000 percent over the same time period last year.

Thousands of buckets of ice and water have been dumped as part of the ALS Association's Ice Bucket Challenge. Celebrities, public officials and average Joes alike have taken the challenge and donated to the association.

Videos are plentiful online ranging from serious to funny and witty variations on the challenge, with people challenging their friends to either donate or be doused in cold water — or both.

The numbers are impressive. From July 29 to Aug. 27, $94.3 million has been donated to the association, according to its website. During the same time period last year, $2.7 million was donated, representing a 3,392 percent increase in donations. Another $200,000 had been donated to the Texas chapter of the association as of Monday.

East Texans have also gotten into the cold-water and giving spirit. Tyler Mayor Martin Heines, as well as representatives from the chamber of commerce and economic development commission all took part in the challenge last week.

"The spirit of Tyler is giving and supporting our nonprofit organizations," Heines said. "The challenge just speaks to the spirit of Tyler. It's a nonprofit, community, giving spirit. When we see a disease like this, the community stands up, volunteers, and gives money to help others."

The Heines family took the challenge together on Thursday.

"I was challenged to this on Facebook by Mandee Montana at Mix 93.1," he said. "My wife was called out by a friend of hers on Facebook, so we were challenged by two different people, but we're doing it together. So is our daughter, Isabella."

Once the ice had been dumped, he challenged former Mayor Barbara Bass, Tyler Chief of Police Gary Swindle, and Tyler Fire Chief Tim Johnson.

ALS, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting nerve cells and pathways in the brain and spinal cord, according to the association's website.

The brain's ability to move muscles dies with the nerve cells, and eventually patients are totally paralyzed. Most die from asphyxiation.

According to the association, 15 people are diagnosed with the disease each day, equating to roughly 5,600 new patients a year. An estimated 30,000 people are living with the disease.

Patients experience similar deterioration, but the disease is very much and individual illness. Life spans range from two to five years, but the progression and severity varies widely from patient to patient.

There is only one treatment, which modestly controls the disease, the website reads.

"The ALS Association has been given a great deal of money and with that comes tremendous responsibility," Barbara Newhouse, president and CEO of the ALS Association, said in a statement. "We are absolutely committed to transparency and will be communicating regularly with the ALS community, our donors, the media and the public about progress to invest these dollars wisely in areas that will have maximum impact on the fight against this devastating disease."



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