Ice Bucket Challenge helps ALS group raise over HK$530,000

August 22, 2014 11:54
Hong Kong Neuro-muscular Disease Association provides support to ALS patients and their families. Patient Mike, along with his mother, can be seen in the inset picture.

The Hong Kong Neuro-muscular Disease Association, a self-help non-profit charity group for people suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), has received donations worth more than HK$530,000 (US$68,386) in four days due to the Ice Bucket Challenge, Metro Hong Kong reported.

The money raised in the four days was five times the amount the group normally received during an entire year in the past, according to the report. 

The Ice Bucket Challenge involves dumping a bucket of ice water on one's head and/or donating to the ALS-related groups. Initiated in the United States, the charity campaign is now also gaining strong support from many celebrities in Asia, and has helped raise significant amount of funds in many countries to provide better care services for ALS patients.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a neurodegenerative disease that causes muscle spasticity, progressive weakness due to muscle atrophy and difficulty in speaking, swallowing, and breathing.

Mike, a 40-year-old ALS patient who contracted the disease right after he got married two years ago, said the Hong Kong government is not providing any support now for patients like him. He had spent all his savings on medication, enduring a lot of hardship. The disease prompted his wife to leave him, adding to his woes.

Although the Ice Bucket Challenge campaign has raised public attention on ALS and helped with funding, Jintana Sow, senior organizing officer of the Hong Kong Neuro-muscular Disease Association, said the group is still struggling to make ends meet.

Its annual income is about HK$600,000, including HK$300,000 from government sponsorship, but expenses total about HK$700,000 a year.

The group's funds were expected to be totally depleted in five years from now, but the recent donations from the Ice bucket challenge has made the reserves double to the current HK$1.08 million, according to Sow.

She said she is very grateful to the donors and hopes that there could be long-term attention on the disease.

The group, which operates out of Wang Tau Hom Estate in Kowloon, is now only equipped with 30 wheel chairs for ALS patients, compared to an estimated 300 patients in the city. Sow said the association has been waiting for about three years for the Social Welfare Department to help it relocate to new facilities. Now, there is only faint hope of that actually happening, she said.

The group has given up the idea of renting new space on the outskirts of the city, such as Tsuen Wan West, as it could not afford the high rent.

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Environment secretary KS Wong and political assistant Michelle Au show an environmental friendly way to take the ice-bucket challenge as they use collected rain water and rice water from restaurants. (Left). The picture on the right shows the staff of the