Anyone with a Facebook account likely has been enjoying a few weeks of friends and celebrities pouring buckets of ice water onto their heads — all in support of the ALS Association’s incredibly successful and viral Ice Bucket Challenge.
And, it seems the freezing-cold phenomenon has hit Plant City.
Jeremy Lee Pearce, a Plant City native who suffers from ALS, learned about the challenge when he saw his Facebook friends posting the ice bucket videos. He plans to complete the challenge himself to increase awareness.
Pearce’s ALS diagnosis shook his world in 2010.
“They gave him only about four-and-a-half years to live, because his case progressed so fast,” said his older sister, Tamara Pearce.
Within six months, Lee Pearce was wheelchair-bound.
He said he was scared when he first received the diagnosis, but his two children give him hope. His daughter, Cheyenne, 14, and son, Bryson, 10, visit him frequently at Community Care Center.
Lee Pearce hasn’t decided exactly when he will do the Ice Bucket Challenge, but he knows there will be a crowd of family and friends who come to cheer him on.
Tamara Pearce directs fundraising events in her brother’s honor and donates the funds to the ALS Association’s Florida chapter. She has organized bake sales, yard sales and T-shirt sales every year since her brother’s diagnosis.
She also leads a team each year at Walk to Defeat ALS. This year, the team is called Lee’s Mighty Rams, a reference to the Valrico Rams, for which Bryson plays football and Cheyenne cheers.
Lee’s church, Mount Zion Assembly of God, also has organized fundraising efforts, such as a spaghetti dinner last year. Melody Johnson Roach met Pearce at Mount Zion.
“I have never met someone so happy,” Roach said. “Lee isn’t dying from this disease. He’s living with it.”
Although the Ice Bucket Challenge has made its way around the U.S., it originated nearby in Sarasota in mid-July. Chris Kennedy, a golfer on the minor-league West Florida Tour, received the challenge from his trainer, James Whatmore. If they did not complete the challenge and post a video within 24 hours, they had to donate $100 to their favorite charities.
Kennedy accepted the challenge but also chose to donate $100 to the ALS Association. His example spread rapidly, and similar videos began to commandeer social media newsfeeds. Even people who had no prior knowledge of ALS, a fatal, neurodegenerative disease, were supporting the cause.
The viral version of the challenge involves dumping a bucket of water on your head and donating $10 to the ALS Association, or skipping the ice and donating $100 instead.
Between July 19 and Aug. 20, the association received $32 million in donations, compared with only $1.9 million during the same timeframe last year. The Florida chapter received $50,000, compared with $21,000 last year.
Contact Catherine Sinclair at [email protected].