For BW Alum, ALS Bucket Challenge is Personal and Professional

August 25, 2014

As the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has swept the BW campus, with President Bob Helmer and religion professor Alan Kolp the latest to endure a frigid shower at Weekend of Welcome, a BW alumna marvels at the support for a cause that is both a personal and professional mission.

Mary Wilson Wheelock '96, serves as Executive Director for the ALS Association Northern Ohio Chapter that covers 32 counties including Cleveland, Akron, Toledo and Youngstown. She says the awareness and support generated by the challenge is "unprecedented, unfathomable, and downright incredible."

The BW chemistry major changed her career path when her mother was diagnosed with ALS a year into her graduate program. "I took a leave of absence from Notre Dame to return home to care for my mother. Wanting something to distract from the demands of caring for an ALS patient, I found an opportunity for an AmeriCorp VISTA volunteer in the BW Career Bulletin. I was placed with Cleveland Reads, and helped write one of the first locally funded America Reads grants. I spent my service year working on various fundraising projects, and...well...a development professional was born."

"I lost my mom to ALS in June 1999, and her dying wish was that the battle to defeat ALS not end with her," she continues. "I took that to heart and became an active volunteer with the local Chapter. In early 2011, the executive director position opened up, and I was fortunate to be selected. The job has been, like the Ice Bucket Challenge, a dream come true."

Wheelock says the response to the challenge, from people like her old BW chemistry professor and Associate Dean, Jim McCargar, to Dean of the BW Conservatory of Music, Susan Van Vorst, and many, many others is amazing, but "our fight against this disease won’t end this summer."

To direct an Ice Bucket Challenge gift to the Northern Ohio Chapter, or to one of its upcoming Walk to Defeat ALS events, visit