In August 2014, the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” went viral, calling for Internet users across the nation to upload videos dumping cold water onto their friends in honor of raising awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a motor neuron disease more commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. While this fad raised money and awareness, ALS research today remains underfunded. Here at Michigan, sophomore Lauren Hendel seeks to change this with the emergence of her club, A Lot Stronger Together. Her Campus had the chance to speak with Hendel and hear how she turned her personal experience with ALS into an awareness (and money raising) powerhouse on campus and beyond.
Her Campus: What is A Lot Stronger Together, and how did it come to be?
Lauren Hendel: A Lot Stronger Together (ALS Together) is the first student run organization at the University of Michigan dedicated to supporting the underfunded Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) research initiative. My family had participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge a few years back, not knowing exactly what we were ‘challenging’. Not only did we not know what the disease entails, but we also did not know that this was a precursor for something much bigger than dumping ice on our heads. A few months ago, I found out the devastating news that my father had been diagnosed with ALS. When it was time to leave my family in New York and finish the rest of the semester, I knew I wanted to get involved with a student organization that was committed to helping those diagnosed with this horrible disease. However, when I returned to campus, I realized there was no such club that shared this same passion. So, I took initiative to start my own club in the hopes that there were more students out there looking to lend a hand and heart to individuals and families enduring this disease.
HC: What did you have to do to start a club?
LH: With the help of a few close friends, I recruited potential members who were eager to get involved and make a difference on this campus. We began recruiting members as soon as we officially gained approval from the University to be a recognized student group. Starting off, we broadcasted our mission on our own social media pages, which gained some traction. Longing to reach a larger audience, we decided to present our ideas and goals to members of campus communities we were a part of. More specifically, we saw the large Greek Community at U of M as a great starting point to get our name out there. We have also utilized our resources at the school and have teamed up with the Michigan Medicine Office of Development to work together to raise funds to benefit the local ALS research and clinic initiatives.
HC: What does your club do?
LH: My club, A Lot Stronger Together, seeks to engage the Michigan campus and the local community about awareness and fundraising efforts to aid individuals and families affected by the progressive neurodegenerative disease. We partner with local organizations to plan and participate in fundraising events and are committed to educating the Michigan student body on the implications of the disease, beyond just participating in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
HC: What do you hope will come out of your club? What are your goals for the future?
LH: Realistically, our short-term goals are to engage the student body to learn more about the disease and how we as students can support the ALS community. We have already participated in fundraising efforts, like the Big House 5k, where we raised nearly $4,000 in favor of the University of Michigan Comprehensive ALS Clinic. We also have plans to hold a giant Ice Bucket Challenge fundraiser featuring a dunk tank in the fall. In the long term, we hope to form a long-standing club at the University that will continue this legacy of educating undergraduate students about ALS until we find a cure. I hope to influence other young adults at other American universities to take action to find a cure and to get involved with these underfunded research organizations across the globe.
HC: How can people help and get involved?
LH: We are always looking to increase our membership! If you are interested or know anyone who may want to join our club, please have them email me at email@example.com.
Photos courtesy of Lauren Hendel.