There have been many people spilling buckets of ice water on their heads lately. Locally, Wilgus Associates, an insurance, property management, real estate company, recently added another 40 people to the nationwide roster of people who have done the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS. But Wilgus Associates did it for a loved one: their own Tim Hill, company vice president.
“Some people think it’s kind of a fad on the Internet, but it’s real people who have this debilitating, 100 percent fatal disease,” said Hill.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or “Lou Gehrig’s disease,” is a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Eventually, the brain is unable to control, or even initiate, movement in the muscles, often leading to paralysis.
Often recorded on video, the Ice Bucket Challenge encourages people to pour ice water over their heads, and/or make a donation to ALS, then challenge their friends to do the same. The ALS Association has raised nearly $100 million in the month since the challenge went viral.
“It’s cold! I made sure I put plenty of ice in,” said a soaking wet David Wilgus, who issued a good-natured challenge to several business competitors.
The Ice Bucket Challenge really hit home for the company after Hill was diagnosed in May. Wilgus Associates wanted to support their coworker of 30 years. So the company also vowed to donate $100 per employee who participated.
So about 30 Wilgus employees, plus another 10 friends and family members, lined up outside their Coastal Highway office for a mass ice bath as passing traffic honked and waved.
“This is going to the facility where Tim has his therapy,” said Wilgus. “It’s a great cause.”
“It’s more important to find a place that has real support after people have been diagnosed,” said Hill, who attends Peninsula Regional Medical Center’s ALS Clinic.
Even his wife, Cindy, found the support she needed as a spouse.
“We’re excited to go on Thursday [for eight hours]. It’s as if we are the only people in the world there,” she said.
For Hill, the warning signs of ALS began around January of 2013 — “Simple things, like cramping in legs and Charlie horses and falling,” Hill said. “You’re not picking your feet up as far as you think.”
He was familiar with Lou Gehrig’s disease, but he didn’t immediately make the connection to his body.
“I’ve been very lucky. I’ve been able to walk every day, which is not the norm. That’s unusual,” Hill said. The support is “overwhelming,” he said. “The Wilgus family has been so supportive of me through all of it — the owners and the staff. I wasn’t expecting it at all.”