What’s he doing with all those buckets? It took Audra Van Wart a second to realize why her husband, Gregorio Valdez, was gathering up all of their pails – it was for research.

Valdez, an assistant professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, studies the molecular mechanisms of neurological diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. The degenerative disease affects nearly 30,000 Americans, causing paralysis of most muscles, including the ones needed for breathing. It’s particularly devastating as the person’s brain is left intact and aware of the damage wrecked on the rest of his or her body. There is no known cure.

This summer, the orphan disease, typically labeled as such because the research for it receives paltry funding and attention, became a household name. Hundreds of thousands of people, from teenagers to former presidents, have dumped buckets of ice water over their heads. Known as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, participants can either take the ice and donate $10, or skip the ice and donate $100.

More like guidelines, these rules aren’t rigid, as the challenge takers are donating whatever they can and many are showering in ice regardless of their donation amount. This time last year, the ALS Foundation received $2.6 million in donations. This year, they’ve received $88.5 million in donations.

“Some people may not understand the challenge, but it’s bringing attention and donations to ALS and our research,” Valdez said. “That’s a good thing.”

Van Wart, a co-director of Virginia Tech’s new doctoral program in Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health, was on hand to offer support as Valdez, his team of researchers, and several other faculty and staff members turned over their buckets of ice water – and shrieked.

“This disease profoundly affects the lives of the patients and their families,” Van Wart said. “I hope the Ice Bucket Challenge phenomenon continues to educate people about the disease and raise awareness and funds for much-needed research.”

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine students also took the Ice Bucket Challenge, followed by their deans and professors.

Learn more about the Virginia Tech Carilion Ice Bucket Challenges on the Virginia Tech Carilion website.