A new craze has been sweeping social media. By now, I’m sure you have heard of the ALS Ice Bucket challenge. Heck, you might have already been nominated or participated. Is this challenge sparking real tangible change?
First, let’s try to understand this horrible disease.
The ALS Association describes the disease as such:
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.
The Ice Bucket challenge was started by a man by the name of Pat Quinn. Pat Quinn was recently diagnosed with ALS. With the help of his friend Pete Frates, a former baseball captain at Boston College (also battling ALS), they launched the Ice Bucket Challenge campaign. For them, It’s not just a fight to cure ALS, it’s their everyday battle with this crippling disease.
The original challenge was – dump a bucket of water on your head or donate $100 to an ALS charity within 24 hours of being nominated. Throughout it’s virality, people have altered the challenge from 100 to 20 dollars or just any money at all.
Celebrities, athletes, businessmen and friends have been submerging themselves with ice and cold water for this cause. This raises an important question: Are people simply just pouring buckets of ice over their head to avoid donating to a charity? At first, all of the videos I saw seemed to indicate that none of them were actually donating. As of recently, I have seen a change in the videos and people are actually donating.
Will Oremus of Slate wrote a scathing article criticizing the challenge claiming:
Yet it’s hard to shake the feeling that, for most of the people posting ice bucket videos of themselves on Facebook, Vine, and Instagram, the charity part remains a postscript. Remember, the way the challenge is set up, the ice-drenching is the alternative to contributing actual money. Some of the people issuing the challenges have tweaked the rules by asking people to contribute $10 even if they do soak themselves. Even so, a lot of the participants are probably spending more money on bagged ice than on ALS research.
As for “raising awareness,” few of the videos I’ve seen contain any substantive information about the disease, why the money is needed, or how it will be used. More than anything else, the ice bucket videos feel like an exercise in raising awareness of one’s own zaniness, altruism, and/or attractiveness in a wet T-shirt.
According to NBC, the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised more than just awareness.
Between July 29 and August 20, the grand total now sits at $31.5 million in donations to The ALS Association and that number will likely only continue to grow. Those numbers are compared to $1.9 million raised during the same time period last year.
We have seen this a multitude of times, diseases sparking awareness. My school holds an annual mini Relay For Life where we donate more than $20,000 to the Relay For Life organization. We’ve done walks/runs for breast cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, leukemia etc. The list goes on and on. We’ve raised enough awareness. We are well “aware” of horrible diseases that take the lives of our friends, family members, etc. We can buy bracelets, wear t-shirts, or use certain hashtags but if we aren’t putting our “awareness” into action we aren’t contributing anything of great value.
The Ice Bucket challenge has sparked new conversations about charity across the country. These challenges are great to spark a moment of change. But what if we wanted to spark a lifetime of change? I have a new challenge and it isn’t for the faint of heart. Instead of just donating money to charity, let’s donate our time. Let’s put our words into action. Time is our most valuable possession yet we waste it on mindless television and social media. Let’s do something with our time. Let’s volunteer at homeless shelters, churches, etc. Live every day with gratitude and humility and be thankful for what we’ve been given. This isn’t a feel good challenge every once in awhile. This is an every morning challenge to live a life of gratitude.