Westerville News & Public Opinion

Buckets of ice buoy local ALS donations

School district staff, community members take the challenge in memory of Cindy Crowe

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Westerville organization Winning the Fight Crowe-Wentzel ALS Research has seen an increase in donations thanks to community members participating in the Ice Bucket Challenge.

The social media campaign promotes awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, a neurodegenerative condition where the motor neurons from the brain to the spinal chord to other muscles begin to fail.

Challenge participants record themselves getting a bucket of ice and water poured over their head, while announcing who had challenged them and challenging others to douse themselves within 24 hours.

Those who decline the challenge are supposed to donate $100 to ALS research, although many who accept also donate.

As of Aug. 26, the national nonprofit ALS Association had received $88.5 million in donations related to the Ice Bucket Challenge -- up from $2.6 million at the same time last year.

Some Westerville residents chose to donate locally and promote former longtime school board member Cindy Crowe's ALS research organization. The nonprofit helps support research and local patients with ALS.

Winning the Fight Crowe-Wentzel ALS Research has received more than $6,000 in donations this month, compared with $50 last year.

"Her goal from the beginning was to find a cure and she is still working on it, but now from heaven," said Tracy Davidson, a Westerville Board of Education member and Crowe's friend.

Crowe was well-known as an education advocate and served on numerous organizations and committees.

She served on the Westerville school board for almost 14 years. Doctors diagnosed her with ALS in March 2013. She continued to serve on the board until May 2014, when her symptoms' progression forced her to step down.

After Crowe died July 12 at age 50, the nonprofit organization saw a spike in donations, bringing in $2,095 from July 14-26.

Those who knew her said Crowe would have loved the challenge.

"I am positive Cindy had something to do with organizing and promoting of the Ice Bucket Challenge," Davidson said.

"I can just picture her up in heaven throwing this idea out to people and then telling them, 'Come on, it's going to be hilarious and it will raise a ton of money.' "

Westerville City School District Superintendent John Kellogg participated in the challenge Aug. 19 at Westerville City Hall.

Kellogg said he participated in memory of Crowe. He then challenged third-grade teachers in the district.

"If they can survive the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, they can survive anything," Kellogg said in a press release.

Friday, Aug. 22, 24 members of the district's transportation department spent their lunch break participating in the challenge.

Members wore yellow shirts and yellow bracelets to honor Crowe and her organization.

Transportation Director Bob Lynde said many of his crew members were challenged individually, but wanted to show support as a group.

"It's OK me doing it by myself, but is there a way we can make a bigger difference?" Lynde said. "With what happened with Cindy just recently, we thought it would be a good idea."

The transportation department put a twist on the challenge, however. Lynde asked the Westerville Fire Division for assistance. The team stood in Westerville North High School's parking lot as firefighters turned on a fire hose and drenched them.

"Surprisingly, it was actually colder than what it looked like," Lynde said. "We got the effect of the ice bucket without the actual ice bucket."

The department collected money and donated to Crowe's organization. Davidson said bus drivers have also stopped by her home and left several hundred dollars in donations.

The department challenged other school district transportation departments in Franklin County, and Westerville's athletic directors.

Donations can be made to Winning the Fight Crowe-Wentzel ALS Research at P.O. Box 1863, Westerville, Ohio 43086.

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