Ice Bucket Challenge carries personal meaning for WSU athletics director

After the Weber State football team wrapped up its practice on Monday morning, WSU Athletics Director Jerry Bovee was doused by two coolers of ice water as part of the viral amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) awareness campaign, Ice Bucket Challenge.

For Bovee, the Ice Bucket Challenge is more than just another internet awareness campaign. Bovee’s father passed away from ALS last year.

“When my dad passed away in March (2013), he had lost the use of his arms and legs and his speech,” Bovee said. “It was a tough thing for me to see how a big strong guy that owned a concrete company and worked so hard his whole life with his body could be relegated to not being in charge.”

According to the ALS Association, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells found in the brain and the spinal column.

The ALSA says on their website that, “Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.”

The Ice Bucket Challenge started going viral almost three weeks ago when Pete Frates, a former college baseball player who suffers from ALS, posted a video on Facebook where he challenged several friends and celebrities, including the Howard Stern Show and NFL players Tom Brady and Julian Edelman, to partake in the Ice Bucket Challenge. From there, the challenge quickly spread across the Internet, where people from all walks of life have taken their turns getting doused in ice water.

“I thought it was a great idea. It’s been fun to watch,” Bovee said. “It’s an important cause, and I think that to see the money that’s been raised for this disease has been a really cool thing.”

As of Monday, the ALSA reported that they have received $15.6 million in donations since July 29, almost nine times the amount of donations the association received during the same time span from last year ($1.8 million). Some of the money has come from existing donors, but the ALSA reported that more than 307,000 new donors have given money to the cause.

Bovee said that he has had fun watching some of the Ice Bucket Challenge videos that have been posted, mentioning Damian Lillard and the U.S. National Basketball team’s video, as well as Montana State University Athletics Director Peter Fields’ video, as two that he particularly enjoyed.

As part of the Ice Bucket Challenge, Bovee nominated Southern Utah University Athletics Director Ken Beazer, Colorado State University Athletics Director John Morris, Southeastern Conference Executive Associate Commissioner Greg Sankey and current Fort Lewis College football coach–and one time Weber State football coach– John L. Smith to partake in the challenge.

“Actually I’ve got to give a little credit to (Weber State Director of Athletic Communications) Paul Grua. (The idea to challenge Smith) came to him quick,” Bovee said. “We chatted about it in the hall and he said he thought it would be funny, and I thought he was right.”

As donations continue to pour in from the Ice Bucket Challenge, Bovee is happy with the popularity the challenge has gained, and the awareness it has spread.

“I think it’s a great thing,” Bovee said. “When you see the numbers that are being raised for ALS, and it’s raised the awareness of this disease in a fun way.”

For more information on ALS and how to donate to the cause, visit the ALS Association website.

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