NWN Carousel Sponsors 9th Annual Ice Bucket Challenge to Raise Awareness of the Importance of Hybrid Work Technology for ALS patients, caretakers, and all those with Disabilities


By Julie Frates, as seen in the Boston Herald

As we gather to commemorate Ice Bucket Challenge Month and celebrate the legacy of my late husband, Ice Bucket Challenge co-founder Pete Frates, we will continue to fight for a cure for ALS while also working to protect the rights of patients and their caregivers.

Since the COVID-19 public health emergency officially ended in May, many companies are trying to force march their employees back to the office. I remember how difficult it was for our family to care for my husband without the flexibility of working from home.

Working from home for employees with caregiving responsibilities allows a much better quality of life for themselves and their families. The life of a caregiver is often a demanding one, which could be made just a little less stressful by allowing these employees to work from their homes near their loved ones.

Having been a caregiver to a spouse for nearly 10 years, I cannot imagine how I would have managed my husband’s care while working outside my home. Not only would my mental health be compromised but most certainly the level of care my husband received would’ve diminished.

Not only that, I can only imagine how much less productive I would’ve been at my job if I were required to be away from my husband for an entire work day, rather than only a room away.

Whether it be taking care of a child or sick relative, employees need the flexibility from employers to allow them to work from home. This is not a question of work place preference but truly a matter of quality of life for many families.

The added time that would be given to employees who would not need to commute, as well as the physical proximity to those they care for, should not be seen as a perk but rather a necessity.

Research suggests that the benefits of hybrid work solutions outweigh any perceived challenges. Work styles normalized during the pandemic have been a valuable aid to the workforce and options for remote work must be protected for people with disabilities.

Denna Laing, a former professional ice hockey player for the Boston Pride, agrees. Laing suffered a paralyzing spinal injury during the Outdoor Women’s Classic at Gillette Stadium in 2016.

“People like me fear that lawmakers will start pulling back all the regulations that were in place during the pandemic,” Laing says. “These regulations were vital to members of the disabled community as we were finally given a level playing field to perform at our best and thrive in a work environment that was equal for all.”

But some local companies are working to keep these protections in place. Boston-based NWN Carousel offers 100% of its staff to work hybrid or from home. More employers need to do the same.

This year, as we douse ourselves with ice water, let’s expand the mission and create greater awareness not only for ALS patients and their families, but for all disabled people and those who work tirelessly on their behalf.

The 9th annual ALS Ice Bucket Challenge event will be held Aug. 9 at the front steps of the Massachusetts Statehouse at 11 a.m. Buckets & Ice will be provided by event sponsor NWN Carousel.

Julie Frates is an ALS family advocate