By now, the entire nation knows about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
It's the viral social media campaign designed to raise awareness and money for research for ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, an incurable degenerative disease that slowly cripples its victims and ends in death.
In video after video, people are getting doused with ice water and calling on family and friends to donate to ALS or themselves get soaked.
A few days ago, I was called out by Gazette Editor Joe Hight.
I gladly accept and will fulfill the challenge this week.
With your help.
This is your chance to hit me with your best shot. Ice and all.
For a price.
More on that in a minute.
Joe had no way of knowing that I have a very personal connection to ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease for the New York Yankees first baseman who abruptly retired in 1939 and died from the disease a couple of years later.
To me, ALS is not Lou Gehrig's disease. It is Lou Gonzales' disease. And it is Dave La Rue's disease.
Lou was a cherished colleague at The Gazette.
Dave was a cherished friend.
I lost them both to ALS and even now, years later, it hurts.
I still have trouble talking about them without choking up. I vividly recall their suffering and the gaping holes their deaths left in so many lives.
Longtime Gazette readers will recall Lou and the columns she wrote during her meteoric career at the paper.
Lou worked at The Gazette from 1994 through 2002, coming to us in her 40s after raising a family and traveling the world as an Air Force wife.
Her writing talent was discovered by a Gazette editor, James Wright, who taught her in a class at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Somehow, he persuaded her to leave her comfortable civil service job at Fort Carson and join the newsroom at The Gazette.
She quickly blossomed as a writer and was awarded her own column.
In her 2003 obituary, I wrote that her columns reflected her roots as the daughter of a cowboy/logger and a nurse's aide. Her memories as a Hispanic girl growing up in a poor Lowell School neighborhood near downtown became a common theme in her columns. She brought a unique perspective to our pages as she became a champion of the poor, the forgotten, those caught in "the system" or fighting City Hall.
I had the honor of editing her.
Longtime Side Streets readers may remember Dave La Rue, who I profiled in 2009 for his work as a tireless neighborhood volunteer.
I described him as the stay-at-home dad who was rarely at home because he was always helping, giving to others.
And I called him one of my best friends. Dave and I met on the sidelines of a youth soccer field. My son, Peter, and his son, Aleksei, were teammates and soon best friends. Still are today.
Same is true for Dave and me. For 10 years or so, Dave and I enjoyed soccer, basketball and baseball games together. When the boys were very young, he coached and I assisted. As the boys grew, Dave and I moved to seats in the stands where we'd second-guess referees, dissect team strategy and cheer the teams.
At the time of my 2009 column, Dave was raising awareness and money to find a cure for ALS. He was suffering from the disease but not content to simply seek help for himself. In typical Dave La Rue fashion, he started thinking of ways to help everyone. He built a website to educate friends and raise money to find a cure. And he organized a team to participate in the annual Walk to Defeat ALS fundraiser in Denver.
I walked with Dave, his wife, Lisa, their family and the rest of the Spirit of the Springs team that fall, taking turns pushing Dave in his wheelchair around a lake in Denver City Park. It was cold and exhausting for Dave. But he was determined.
The next October, my wife, Cary, and I walked again, circling the lake in a cold rain and with very heavy hearts. This time, we wore Dave's name on our backs. He had died two days earlier.
Cary and I will walk yet again this year with the Spirit of the Springs in the Walk to Defeat ALS fundraiser on Sept. 13 in Denver.
I'd love to be surrounded by hordes of Springs residents and raise a ton of money for ALS. But I know that's not practical.
So, let me do the walking. You can do the donating.
If you are interested, you can follow this link to the ALS website and the Lisa La Rue/Spirit of the Springs team page: http://web.alsa.org/goto/larue.
But before I go to Denver, I want to answer Hight's Ice Bucket Challenge.
And here's a second chance for you to get involved.
I've seen the huge impact the challenge is having on raising money for ALS research. As of Wednesday, the ALS Association reported donations of $53.3 million in August compared with just $1.9 million during the same period last year. I want to bump that even higher.
So, instead of just getting soaked and calling out a few friends, I'm adding a Side Streets twist to my challenge.
For a price, you can have the pleasure of leaving me soaked and crying.
I'm going to let the readers who donate the most to the Spirit of the Springs have the pleasure of hitting me with the freezing water for all the world to see. Just go to the link, donate and then let me know on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sidestreets.billvogrin or via email at email@example.com. On Wednesday, I'll announce the winners.
My colleague, Eric Singer, is orchestrating a public dousing. It will occur at high noon Thursday in the center of the Busy Corner - Tejon Street and Pikes Peak Avenue near the Hank the Cowboy statue - outside The Gazette's office.
Eric is even planning to stream the event live on Gazette.com. (Dave La Rue would love all this high-tech stuff.)
So, please bid away. Think how much fun it will be to hit me with your best shot.
I'll gladly get cold and wet in honor of Lou and Dave. It's the least I can do.