FORT MYERS, Fla. - People all around the country are pouring buckets of ice water on their heads, hoping to raise money for the ALS Association. And, they are - millions, in fact. But, do you know who that money is helping?
WINK News is breaking down the dollars. It's impressive. The national ALS Association has received $32 million dollars in less than a month from the ice bucket challenge. It's a far cry from the $2 million they got during the same time last year. It goes toward things like research and education. But, we found, none of it trickles down to Florida. So, if you want to help patients in your own backyard, here's how.
The second Saturday of every month, ALS patients come to this clinic on Plantation Road in Fort Myers. "They come and all the different services they need are available for them. they have a physician, they have a respiratory therapist, physical therapist, a dietician," explained Cindy Drapal, Director of the Neuroscience Institute with Lee Memorial Health System.
ALS, also referred to as Lou Gherig's Disease, is a neurodegenerative disease affecting nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. There's no cure. Lee Memorial's clinic serves about 300 patients from 10 different counties. "One patient visit costs approximately $300 and we see patients whether they are funded or not funded," Drapal said.
While most of the Ice Bucket Challenges have benefited the national ALS Association, remember, local and state organizations are independent.
"The money sent to the national organization will not trickle into Florida," said Alissa Gutierrez, the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Florida ALS Chapter. "In fact, the money we raise here in Florida, we actually pay a percentage of that to the national organization for research and advocacy efforts."
Thanks to the challenge, the Florida ALS Chapter has gotten $50,000 dollars, compared to $21,000 in the same time last year: a $30,000 boost. But, it's a drop in the bucket compared to the $32 million pouring into the national association. Put in perspective, a power wheelchair which helps ALS patients get around costs between $30-40,000. The Florida Chapter can use the extra funding to buy one. Still, Gutierrez says they are thrilled that the national organization is having such an amazing windfall in donations.
"In the Florida chapter, we are happy when a $20 donation comes in," Gutierrez said.
"ALS is a very challenging, debilitating and eventually, terminal disease that is both emotionally stressful on the patient as well as the family," Drapal said. "Anything we can do to make their lives easier is really important to these patients and their families."
This isn't to say you should donate to one organization over another, putting patients in Florida over national research. We're simply letting you know your options. These state and location organizations tell WINK News not everyone knows what's out there.
To donate, visit these links:
ALS Florida: www.ALSAFL.org.
Lee Memorial ALS Clinic: Https://co.clickandpledge.com/advanced/default.aspx?wid=91181