Ice Bucket Challenge comes to Alisal

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Ice Bucket Challenge comes to Alisal


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One of the biggest trends this year is the Ice Bucket Challenge – this challenge helps raise awareness and supports ALS research, in search for a cure. ALS -or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis-is a disease that attacks the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Eventually when the cells die, so does the brain’s ability to control the muscles. As the disease progresses the muscles start to waste away from lack of nourishment, and the end result is always death. This disease can strike anyone at any time; it has no preference.

The disease is more popularly known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” named after the famous New York Yankee first baseman, Lou Gehrig. It has been nearly a century since Gehrig died, and as the years passed, fewer and fewer people knew about ALS and how deadly it can be.

Which is why the Ice Bucket Challenge came at the perfect time because, even though people weren’t as familiar with ALS as they are with cancer, cases have taken a drastic toll. According to the ALS website, 30,000 people have ALS at any given time and everyday 15 people are diagnosed. Though the original challenge was to either a) dunk ice water on yourself and record it, or b) donate to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association, many people have gone beyond themselves doing both A and B. The purpose of the ice water is to temporally feel your body go numb or paralyzed as if you had ALS. Everyone from Platoon star, Charlie Sheen to tech-genius, Bill Gates, has participated and donated to the ALSA. And, our Trojans were no exception.

If any school had a reason to do the Ice Bucket Challenge it would be Alisal. Trojans of all classes rallied around teacher Natalie Bernasconi to show love and support by taking the challenge. Bernasconi, a freshman AVID teacher, is also a two-time cancer survivor. Her personal experience with ALS happened three weeks before school started when her beloved sister was taken by ALS. She saw her go through it, and saw the pain that this disease can cause on the patient, describing it as “being buried alive.” Though when most people would have wallowed and grieved, Bernasconi was motivated to help raise awareness about this disease and called out to her Trojan Family to help out. She got dozens of responses to her challenge, teachers and even students volunteered to stand up with her and pour ice cold water on themselves.

Wanting to be sensitive to the drought in California, only a selected few were able to take the challenge. The selected few consisted of science teacher Crystal Mertz, English teacher Mick Battaglini, freshman seminar teacher Sunil Patel, the wrestling coach J.J. Garcia, two freshmen girls, and Principal Ernesto Garcia, who said, “In tough times we come together.”

All those who volunteered said it was a very important cause, a chance where the school could show a different side of Alisal than the stereotypical “east side” – a chance where the school could show its unity. Many teachers said they never saw the amphitheater that packed full of students and teachers all together and standing up for the same cause.  Battaglini stated how he wished every rally could be like that – all together showing support and Trojan pride. “I thought it was awesome,” he said, “because of how many people wanted to volunteer. I wish every rally was like this.”

Coach Garcia was shocked of the amount of students that filled the amphitheater, “That was just amazing I’d never seen it that full.”

Some had a deeply personal reason for doing the ice bucket challenge. Mertz, like Bernasconi, lost someone to ALS. For Mertz, losing her grandfather at the age of 16 was deeply saddening; losing his battle with ALS only a short few weeks after being diagnosed. “It’s fatal, fatal fast!”

Now though, thanks to social media everybody in the world knows about ALS, and not only that but thanks to all of those who donated, the ALSA have reached a record $80 million. As Mertz puts it, “Now their challenge is to spend it.”

Many might be asking “Why didn’t Bernasconi take the challenge?” Well, that was the original plan, but as everybody knows, plans change. The day before the event took place Coach J.J and his wrestlers walked into her class with a big check and she graciously let him have her spot in the challenge. Coach Garcia put it out as a challenge to his wrestlers to raise $100 in TWO days and he would take the Ice Bucket Challenge. Well, once wrestlers put their mind to something, they accomplish it, raising over $100. Coach Garcia said, “The whole point of my coaching is I want to make them care.”

The rally was a huge success according to Bernasconi thanks to the support of the Health Academy, the wrestling team, ASB, the staff and students, and some friendly newscasters from KION.  “There’s no way I could have done that by myself.  I was so proud of the Trojan family for coming together like that,” she said.

At the end of the day, Bernasconi had a little advice for future generations, “There’s a lot of things worse than dying.  Make the most out of our lives now, make it count, and make it meaningful now. Life is about the tenderness, life is about the love we give to one another, that’s what matters.”

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