Ipswich Breaks Record for a Good Cause

Nadja Ueckert-LaPlante and Ava Warren

It’s been several years since the trend of the ALS ice bucket challenge sweeped the nation. The trend was recently revived at Ipswich High School. After being nominated by a group of athletes from Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School, the students and faculty at Ipswich High School took the challenge up a notch, ultimately breaking a Guinness World Record.

ALS is short for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The disease slowly affects motor neurons and nerves, inhibiting the brain from sending messages to muscles and controlling their movement. Advanced ALS can ultimately lead to paralysis and death. The disease was first discovered in 1869 by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot. However, it wasn’t given national attention until 1939 when famous baseball player, Lou Gehrig, died from the disease. ALS is diagnosed in over 5,000 new patients each year in the United States alone. The most common demographics of those who suffer from the disease are Caucasian males between the ages of 40 and 70. In addition, it is believed that military veterans are twice as likely to develop ALS, according to the ALS Association. While researchers are still unclear about the potential risks associated with ALS, new research is being conducted to determine what genetics and environmental factors contribute to ALS.

Surprisingly enough, the ice bucket challenge was not originally linked to ALS. It was originally common for participants to raise money for a charity of their own choosing. It wasn’t until Pete Frates, a former baseball player at Boston College, posted a video of his ice bucket challenge that the trend went viral. Frates had been diagnosed with ALS in March of 2012. Thousands of people began posting videos online, including celebrities ranging from Michael Jordan, to Oprah, to Mark Zuckerberg, to Martha Stewart. The challenge intended to bring awareness to the disease as well as to raise money for research. By the end of the summer of 2014, 17 million people worldwide had helped raise $115 million to be donated in hopes of ending ALS. The ALS Association reports that $84 million of this amount raised was put towards research, and the remainder has been used for patient and community services and public/professional education.

In the context of Ipswich High School, many students and faculty members were familiar with the ice bucket challenge before participating in the school-wide event on September 14, 2018. With the help of Ipswich Maritime Products, Aubuchon Hardware, and other local businesses that supplied the school with products such as buckets and ice, a total of 508 students and faculty members gathered on a field outside of the high school to take part in the challenge. Water was supplied by the Ipswich Fire Department. After hearing the father of Pete Frates speak at the high school about how the ice bucket challenge has affected him and his family, senior Cate Phypers said, “I had never realized the origins of the ice bucket challenge. It was cool to be able to hear the story of how the challenge really blew up, and know that it’s so close to home with Pete Frates and his family.” Similarly, math teacher Mrs. Horst commented, “as is always the case when Ipswich students and faculty decide to support a good cause, the energy was amazing. The majority of the student population chose to participate and although everyone was a bit apprehensive of getting their clothes and hair wet, there was a sense of excitement and community that pushed everyone to participate!”

When asked about how IHS’s participation in the ice bucket challenge has affected students and the greater community, Cate Phypers stated, “It’s really cool to know that we were a part of something so big. Ipswich is a small town so I think our potential to do good is sometimes underestimated.” Similar to the efforts surrounding Talia Duff’s research for CMT4J, many people agree that this event showed the potential Ipswich has as a community to come together to help one another in times of need. Mrs. Horst added, “I strongly believe that any act of kindness has a greater impact on the community at large, as it provides each person that participated, or even witnessed the act, an automatic feeling of happiness. People have the innate desire to replicate this by performing more acts of kindness.” With the help of all students and faculty members, Ipswich High School was able to raise a total of $1,582.83 for ALS research and break the Guiness World Record for most people doing the ice bucket challenge at one time.