Jindal gets doused with ice for ALS awareness

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has done it, as have New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Justin Timberlake and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

On Wednesday, Gov. Bobby Jindal became one of the latest public figures to take part in the “ice bucket challenge” — a social media-driven awareness campaign for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

ALS groups say the awareness campaign, with heavy backing from former New Orleans Saint Steve Gleason’s Team Gleason, has helped drive millions to ALS research funding, as well as raise the public’s knowledge of the disease, which is fatal and has no cure. Gleason, who retired after the 2007 football season, was diagnosed with ALS in 2011. His foundation provides supports to others with the disease.

The viral video sensation, which is sweeping Facebook and Twitter, has people across the country posting videos of themselves or others dumping large buckets of ice on their heads. They then “challenge” others to do the same or donate to ALS charities. Many are doing both, and politicians and celebrities have become popular subjects to challenge.

After a cautious smile from Jindal, first lady Supriya Jindal dumped the bucket of ice-cold water onto the governor’s head, as shown in a video that Jindal’s administration posted to YouTube on Wednesday morning. The challenge came to Jindal from Brees. Jindal has passed the torch on to talk show host Joe Scarborough, “Duck Dynasty” star Willie Robertson and LSU football coach Les Miles, urging them to do the same in his video.

Clare Durrett, associate executive director of Team Gleason, said the movement’s impact has been significant because ALS research is underfunded.

“The ice bucket challenge is a perfect vehicle to help bring needed awareness to a disease that has no treatment or cure,” she said. “The challenge is free and easy and we’ve been amazed by the response. Not only is awareness for the disease being raised, so are donations.”

According to the national ALS Association, the disease causes those who have it to lose control of their voluntary muscle movement, including the ability to eat, speak, walk and eventually breathe.

Jindal, who is eyeing a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, said he plans to donate money to an ALS charity, in addition to being covered in ice water. He said he accepted the challenge in support of Team Gleason.

President Barack Obama, after being challenged by Ethel Kennedy, declined the call to get covered in ice but is expected to give to an ALS charity this week, according to The Boston Globe.

Jamie Craig, director of development and community relations for the Louisiana/Mississippi chapter of the ALS Association, said the local group has seen an uptick in donations amid the social media push.

Online donations during the past two weeks have been $12,700, compared to $8,600 over the same period last year.

Nationally, the ALS association reports that it and its 38 chapters took in $4 million in donations from July 29 to Aug. 12, compared to $1.12 million during the same time last year.

“Having someone like the governor spreading the word — it can only bring good things,” Craig said. “Sometimes something silly and simple can make an impact.”

Craig was skeptical when she first heard about the “ice bucket challenge.”

“I said, ‘It doesn’t make any sense, there’s no way it will make any money,’ ” she said. “I guess I have to take those words back.”

According to the national ALS group, more than 70,000 new donors have given since July 29.

“While the monetary donations are absolutely incredible, the visibility that this disease is getting as a result of the challenge is truly invaluable,” Barbara Newhouse, President and CEO of The ALS Association, said in a statement. “People who have never before heard of ALS are now engaged in the fight to find treatments and a cure for ALS.”

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of the Louisiana Legislature, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog .