By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries
LAKE FOREST, CA (ANS) — Many around the world have been posting videos of themselves taking part in the “ice bucket challenge” to raise funds for the ALS Association, who are trying to find a cure for this terrible degenerative neurological condition also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
I have been moved as I watched these videos of celebrities and ordinary folk, taking part in their “soaking,” for a cause that is close to my heart.
You see, I recently lost to this dreaded disease, Theodore “Ted” Bleymaier, a dear friend.
It was Ted and his lovely wife Ann, who were among the first friends we made when we, as a family, moved over from the UK to Southern California, back in June of 1982. They showed us great love and introduced us to Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, then being pastored by Chuck Smith – the “Father of the Jesus People Movement” – and with whom I am now a “Media Missionary.”
Ted was then working for Maranatha! Music, with his close friend, Chuck Fromm, and spent many hours helping us to readjust to our new life in the “New World.”
But sadly, Ted’s life changed forever on March 27, 2012, when this super fit former Stanford football player, and his wife Ann, sat across the examination table from specialist, Dr. Kamisky, as he confirmed to them the devastating diagnosis for Ted of ALS.
“It is hard to put into words exactly what I felt at that moment,” he said shortly afterwards. “Other than a few mechanical injuries I had sustained playing sports all my life, I had never really been sick.
“I was 62 years old, in great shape with a beautiful wife, two daughters, a son in law and the greatest dog in the world named Berwyn. My wife and I were traveling the country helping non-profits put on fund raising golf tournaments and we loved it. This also afforded me a great opportunity to play golf as I have most of my life. In fact, with a career in the Air Force and then as International VP for Word Entertainment, I have been blessed to have played golf in over 40 countries around the world.”
Ted Bleymaier, who met Ann in the U.K. while serving with the US Air Force – she is from North Wales – continued, “Lou Gehrig’s disease affects the motor neurons; they die and your muscles atrophy. It affects the voluntary muscles, but not the involuntary. Your heart is not affected and for the most part you are fully cognizant of the fact that your body is falling apart and there is nothing you can do about it.
“You will lose most of your motor skills including the ability to breathe and swallow. To this day, they have not figured out what causes ALS and there are no known remedies or medications to cure the disease. In the US, only 2 out of 100,000 come down with ALS. 50% of the patients die in the first 18 months and 90% die in 3 to 5 years. As a result, there are only about 30,000 people in the US who have this disease at any one time.
“In fact, if it was not for Lou Gehrig, this disease would be almost invisible. If I may, let me take you back to 1939. Baseball was the biggest sport.by far.in the country and since Babe Ruth had retired in 1935, Lou was the sport’s biggest hero. There is no equivalent to Lou’s stature in our country today. He had not missed a single game in 17 years for the NY Yankees – truly the original iron man.
“As the season began, Lou was only batting 158 with just 1 RBI. He then gets diagnosed with a disease which no one had ever heard of and then two weeks later the Yankees and all of baseball honored Lou before the start of a home game. Lou never played another game and died within two years. This was later immortalized in the movie, ‘The Pride of the Yankees,’ starring Gary Cooper. In one of the most recognizable sport quotes of all time, Lou called himself ‘the luckiest man on the face of the earth.’
“WOW.now that is having an attitude of gratitude!”
Ted Bleymaier was so moved with learning of Lou Gehrig speech, that he received a standing ovation when he recited it at a Nashville Sounds baseball game in Nashville, not long after receiving the news that he had the same illness as the baseball great.
Sadly, Ted passed away this year at his home in Spring Hill, Tennessee, on Friday April 4, and that is why I have watched and cheered so many “ice bucket challenges,” especially those of my family members and also friends as they have posted the videos on Facebook.
But now recently, an eRumor has been circulating on the Internet criticizing this worldwide “ice bucket” phenomena.
One of the messages reads, “Everyone has seen video after video (on social media) of friends, family, and colleagues taking the #IceBucketChallenge for the ALS Association research foundation.
“The goal of which has been stated to find a cure for those suffering with neurological breakdown through diseases like ALS.
“For any who have witnessed such struggle in those we love, the sincere and desperate hope for a cure seems like a big payoff for a bit of ice cold water being dumped on the head!
“The only problem here is that–unknowingly–this very challenge is contributing to the ongoing destruction of human life–intentionally.
“The ALS association is actively now funding embryonic stem cell research and admitting that they likely will continue to do so in the future.
The message went on to say, “The funding of embryonic stem cell research means that children are created and at their earliest stages of life they are destroyed so that the stem cells (from usually the base of the brain) can be harvested to perform tests with.
“Embryonic stem cell research has proven zero percent effective in combating diseases like ALS and other neurological degenerative diseases.
“Adult stem cells – which can be harvested from living humans without them being killed – have on the other hand – proven vastly effective in making progress towards slowing down and in some cases seeing remission or reversal of degenerative defects.”
There have made other criticisms of the #IceBucketChallenge, one of which stated, “Be it that millions around the world die from a lack of clean water, while millions of Americans have now poured out tens of millions of gallons of it. Or the idea that ALS takes approximately 1.6 lives per 100,000 deaths, while hunger amongst orphans is taking the life of a child every 90 seconds with roughly 60 million orphans globally.”
So what is the truth behind all of this condemnation? Well, intrepid veteran eRumor investigator, Tony Ashlin, who runs Truth or Fiction, a web site started by the late Christian broadcaster, Rich Buhler, has looked into the stem cell allegations, and says that it is only true in just one case.
“The ALS Association funds one study that uses embryonic stem cell research, according to an August 23, 2014, article by the Minneapolis Star Tribune,” said Ashlin in a posting on his www.truthorfiction.com.
“The ALS Association said that the research was funded by ‘one specific donor who is committed to this area of research.’
“Additionally, the ALS Association said donors were able to stipulate that they do not want their donations used to fund any stem cell research, if they so choose.
“Human embryonic stem cell lines that are used in research come from embryos that were left over from in vitro fertilization, or from embryos that carry genetic mutations like cystic fibrosis or Tay Sachs disease, according to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine’s website.
“After a couple completes the in vitro fertilization process, they either continue paying for the leftover embryos to remain frozen or allow them to thaw, which destroys the cells.
“Couples in some states, however, also have the choice to donate the embryos to research or adoptive families, according to the institute.”
Ashlin added that the ALS Association said on its web site, “The discovery that human embryonic stem cells can be isolated and propagated in culture with the potential of developing into all tissues of the body is a major medical breakthrough.” It admits, however, that “it has raised a great deal of ethical questions.”
So there you have it. Many of the tens of thousands who have taken the “ice bucket challenge,” have often done so for dear friends, like Ted Bleymaier, who they have lost, and who made a huge impact on our lives.
They were not making any statement other than that!
Of course, there are those who appear to have as their life slogan, “You name it; I’m against it! They dedicate their blogosphere lives to criticizing others, as I well know, having been on the receiving end of some of these folk.
Of course, each one of us has a choice to make in participating, or not, in the “ice bucket challenge,” especially if one personally knows someone who has died from ALS. However, if there is only one case involved here in which the funding from the challenge is not being used, I am trying to figure out why there has been such a fuss, unless maybe it is to build up their mailing lists.
For me, I prefer to follow what Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward” (Mark 9:41 NIV). You could substitute, a “bucket of ice water,” if you wish.
Where do you stand? I know where I do, and it all relates to a dear friend called Ted Bleymaier.