EDENTON — Michael Hare is glad to see Facebook’s viral “ice bucket challenge” for ALS reach Chowan County.
“It has certainly been an extra unexpected fundraiser,” said Hare, an Edenton native and Albemarle Bank executive who serves on the board of the Hertford-based Jim “Catfish” Hunter ALS Foundation.
He noted the ice bucket phenomenon already has generated more than $5,000 for the Foundation.
But Hare hopes the current attention the disease is getting will translate into long-term support for research and patient care – including greater support from Chowan for the annual Jim “Catfish” Hunter ALS Walk in neighboring Perquimans County.
The awareness that has arisen around the amateur videos of people willingly getting buckets of ice dumped over their heads has raised millions of dollars for ALS.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS is a progressive neurogenerative disease. It has been widely known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” but is better known locally for having claimed the life of the Albemarle area’s own baseball Hall of Famer, Jim “Catfish” Hunter.
Hunter’s family in Perquimans County has founded the Jim “Catfish” Hunter ALS Foundation, an organization that works closely with the ALS Association but has its own mission of supporting local people living with ALS. Among its other projects the Foundation established and continues to support the ALS clinic at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, according to Hare.
A number of people in Chowan County already have participated in the ice bucket challenge. Hare said he has been challenged and plans to participate.
Hare said the participation has been greater in Hertford because of that community’s close connection to Hunter and familiarity with the Hunter Foundation.
He would love to see Chowan County become more familiar with the foundation’s work and more involved in supporting the Foundation, especially through the annual ALS Walk fundraiser.
The walk this year is Sept. 27.
“We could certainly use more teams from Edenton,” Hare said.
Ashley Stoop, a board member with the Jim “Catfish” Hunter ALS Foundation, said the foundation had seen an 800 percent increase in its Facebook “likes” during the past week as the popularity of the ice bucket challenge has exploded.
“It’s just unbelievable,” she said.
Stoop pointed out that not only is the local foundation named for Hunter, but the North and South Carolina Chapter of the ALS Association also is no called the Jim “Catfish” Hunter Chapter of the ALS Association.
Stoop said that Hunter – she remembers him affectionately as “Mr. Jimmy” – died while she was in college. She worked for a while at the ALS Association and then joined the local Foundation.
Although much of the money raised through the ice bucket challenge has gone to the ALS Association, the Foundation also is benefiting from the publicity blitz.
“ALS organizations nationwide are receiving donations,” Stoop said.
The Foundation has a local focus but also serves patients all over the state and all over the country, Stoop said. It helps with patient care and also funds research, she said.
“But our primary focus is really the patient,” Stoop said.
Anyone interested in participating in the Sept. 27 ALS Walk may contact Hare for more information or go online to www.catfishfoundation.org.