BELLINGHAM - Smiles quickly turned to shrieks and laughter after almost 30 health care workers dumped buckets of ice-cold water over their heads to raise awareness for ALS.
The group of nursing students and health care administrators grabbed their pails outside of St. Francis of Bellingham on a hot Monday afternoon, Aug. 25, to answer the "Ice Bucket Challenge."
The challenge has spread rapidly through social media as people encourage their friends and family to donate to research on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly called Lou Gehrig's disease.
"ALS is one of those things those of us who work in health care are aware of, but on a national basis it's not very well-funded because it doesn't affect that many people," said Tonja Myers, St. Francis administrator.
About 30,000 people in the U.S. have the disease, according to the ALS Association.
Most of those present Monday were asked there by Myers, who offered to donate money to the ALS Therapy Development Institute for each person who joined her.
When all was said and done, the group's donation totaled about $500, Myers said.
Myers and her sister Terry Myers, administrator of Highland Care Center, were challenged by their little sister, Dawn Evert, whose husband lost his father to ALS.
"In our profession we've both seen a lot of people die of this," Terry said. "It touches close to home."
ALS is a degenerative disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, progressively limiting muscle control and eventually leading to death, usually only a few years after diagnosis.
Before Monday's challenge, Tonja nominated the administrators of Whatcom County's other skilled nursing facilities to participate, and her 17-year-old son Ian Slater nominated the Bellingham High School class of 2015 and school administrators.