Friday, September 19, 2014

Champion Ice Bucket Challenge

Liberty University’s student newspaper staff takes on the cold challenge with warm hearts

INSPIRATIONAL — The Liberty Champion staff takes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in front of DeMoss Hall. Photo credit: Leah Stauffer

INSPIRATIONAL — The Liberty Champion staff takes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in front of DeMoss Hall. Photo credit: Leah Stauffer

Our generation lives in a culture of tragedy. It would seem that, more than ever before, our news is inundated with narratives of war, plague, death and diseases.

This constant barrage of negative newscasts and heartbreaking headlines takes a grave toll on the average consumer. Though surrounded by pain and problems, many of the global grievances we bear witness to are too distant, too complex and too detached from our everyday lives for us to feel as if we can lend a hand to the solution. As a result, we stand still as the chaos swirls around us, pinned in a posture of helplessness.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is one such global problem that seems insurmountable. The progressive neurodegenerative disease currently has no cure and no treatment. This summer, however, a clever idea went viral, and the once implausible idea of curing a deadly disease is now suddenly within reach for thousands of people.

According to the ALS Association, since the concept of the Ice Bucket Challenge began July 29, the organization has raised $53 million in contributions and has seen funds pledged from more than 1 million new donors. This is a huge jump from the $2.1 million that was raised in the same time period last year.

Though the challenge — which involves dousing yourself with a bucket of ice water and donating $10 — has received criticisms from various parties, it is clear that the challenge is indeed raising awareness, and, more importantly, it is making a difference.

The phenomenon of freezing water quickly infiltrated Capitol Hill, Hollywood and sports arenas around the nation as politicians, celebrities and athletes accepted the challenge.

When the 2014-2015 Liberty Champion staff decided to take on this challenge, the decision was not made lightheartedly. For us, the challenge took on special significance as one of our very own professors lost his wife to the battle with ALS last year.

Professor of Communication Stuart Schwartz watched his wife pass away after only a year of being diagnosed with ALS. According to Schwartz, she died with “grace and peace that stood in stark contrast to the ravages of the disease relentlessly claiming her life.”

Speaking from personal experience, Schwartz commented on the implications of the challenge and praised the challenge’s efforts to raise money for a good cause.

“I think it’s a great approach,” Schwartz said. “I mean, the more stuff you can do to promote something, the better off you are. I think it’s great stuff.”

Though we realize that finding a solution to ALS will take more than just a bucket of ice water, the Champion staff is proud to honor a member of our Liberty family, and we are passionately proactive about doing our part, no matter how small.

A portion of our challenge included nominating five additional candidates. Three of these nominations were to Liberty professors — Bruce Kirk, chair of the Digital Media and Communication Arts department; George Young, business school associate professor; and David Hahn, assistant professor of music and worship.

In addition to these three professors, we nominated two student staffs — the staff of Liberty’s 90.9 The Light Radio Station and the staff of Virginia Tech’s student paper, The Collegiate Times.

We hope that our nominees take part in the challenge and continue to aid in the effort to raise awareness for ALS. But whether you accept the challenge, make a donation, or do both, it is important to remember that this is not a faceless disease.

The Champion staff has personally felt its impact in our school and in our department.

Schwartz described his wife as a “quietly devout Christian who believed that every second of an ordinary life … was jammed with meaning and opportunity.” More than taking the challenge and more than raising awareness, let us take this opportunity to be, like Sharon Schwartz, extraordinary in our ordinariness.

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