It’s difficult to go anywhere on the Internet right now without seeing something about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. TV personalities, popular celebrities, and even notable politicians have taken the challenge and nominated some other unlucky persons to also drench themselves with ice water. As per the original challenge instructions, dumping a bucket of ice water on your head exempted you from donating to the ALS Association, but as the trend has increased, many of the nominees are both soaking themselves and donating. As evidence, the association’s donations have skyrocketed: 1.1 million new donors have donated $88.5 million over the past two months. So who’s complaining?
I won’t deny the challenge’s potential to raise awareness, cure a previously considered incurable disease, and garner profitable donations for the ALS Association. But the way in which such monetary gains are being made could outweigh the supposed benefits of this charitable trend. Are donations given with cursory thought beneficial for raising awareness? Though not every challenge was performed without a serious understanding of Lou Gehrig’s disease, the entraining nature of the fad implies a general lack of thought. ALS’s awareness has been eclipsed by the nature of the challenge. As more people participate, more people feel pressured to. And once nominated, guilt overrides a genuine feeling of charity.
The thought to give is now: “I must dump ice water on my head and donate, or everyone will think I’m selfish and ignorant.” But shouldn’t the thought to giving be: “I’m donating because ALS is a devastating disease, and I want to raise awareness for people ignorant to its effects.” Eventually, participating in the challenge becomes less about ALS and more about your reaction to getting ice water dumped on your head. But the association is raising money, right? Sure, the financial effectiveness of this campaign is undeniable. But is dressing-up a charitable campaign with a bit of guilt, a taste of egotism, and an undercurrent of laziness really charity? Has the millennial generation come to the point where the devastating effects of disease, poverty, or conflict have to be bathed in ice water to merit charitable behavior?
I, like many other people, have participated in the infamous ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. This viral challenge has struck up quite a controversy. I originally did it like everyone else: I was nominated by a friend who clearly hates me.
After the initial dread of being nominated, I began to do a little research on ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. All that I had previously known about ALS I learned from Mitch Albom’s “Tuesdays with Morrie”, and thus I was surprised by what I found. According to the ALS Association, the Ice Bucket Challenge has helped raise $88.5 million (and counting) this year alone. This figure is opposed to approximately $2.9 million which was raised last year. In the past, there has not been much funding for ALS because the number of people who are diagnosed is comparatively less than those diagnosed with other diseases. But the life expectancy rate is significantly lower than other disease: once you are diagnosed, you are expected to live anywhere from two to five years. This is a rapidly progressive disease in need of awareness and funding.
I have learned so much about ALS this summer, information which I would not have known without the constant stream of challenge videos circulating through social media. The ice bucket challenge provides a funny platform for a disease that is difficult for people to talk about.
There is a challenge video out there entitled, “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – Uncensored and Sexy?” Don’t let the title fool you because the nominee in the video, Anthony Carbajal, takes you on an emotional journey about his personal struggle with ALS at only 26 years old. He expresses how thankful he is for the Ice Bucket Challenge because this devestating disease has never before gotten so much attention. So if you are even a little skeptical about this challenge, I highly recommend watching his challenge video, and perhaps participating yourself. Ultimately, each video creates a ripple effect. Even if the individual who created the video didn’t donate or learn more about ALS, someone who watches their video may.