Why The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Is Important



Unless you’ve been living on Mars for the last month or so, you’ve probably heard of the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Basically, a person is nominated by a friend to dump a bucket of ice water over themselves, and they have to do it within a day of being nominated. They can film it if they so choose to, but who wouldn’t want a digital memento. If they can’t complete the challenge, they have to donate $100 to the ALS Association or the chapter of their choice.

The first time I saw a Facebook friend doing this to herself, I thought it was an insanely offensive joke, as if the punishment for not having the courage to dump ice on oneself was to lose $100 bucks to a disease that not many people know or understand or has been recently used as a punch line (let’s face it…Ted was a funny movie but that Lou Gehrig’s disease one-liner was a tasteless sneeze on the cake). I thought to myself, “Wow, (insert name of friend) sure is losing it these days. Poor dumb clunk. (Scroll) Oh look, (insert name of another friend) got a new car!”

Everything about these lame, multiplying videos bothered me. I couldn’t fathom why someone would take the time to film themselves doing something dumb unless it was a total joke, and why shouldn’t the thought have crossed my mind?

I’ve seen other “challenge” videos, like the cinnamon one, the saltine one, and there’s even people out there who got creative with rubbing alcohol and a match and then inevitably had to get creative with the burn cream. People, namely the young ones with Bieber-level fame aspirations, do these things silly things on camera because our society demands that everything we do, including the brain dead things, needs to be thoroughly documented for the admiration of an online audience. That’s how you get famous nowadays, right?

Then it all changed. After a few more of my friends willingly doused themselves in ice water, I became more curious about what this was all about.

Through my own research, I found out that this wasn’t a joke after all, but a real and surprisingly successful marketing campaign that has brought attention and truckloads of money to a very worthy cause.

According to a variety of online resources, the original idea came from a Massachusetts-based ALS patient who filmed himself completing the challenge and then started using the popular hashtag. And since that fateful day, the idea has snowballed, been copied, and the ALS Association has received almost $63 million dollars in donations. That’s more than 60 times the amount donated to the foundation this time last year. And for the 30,000 people in the United States living with ALS, this kind of positive attention is a large strike on an otherwise forgotten lightning rod. The ALS Association has additionally added a bevy of new members and has accepted the donations and exclaimed their gratefulness to the wonderfully wacky people who are taking short baths in ice water.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease after the famous baseball player who suffered from it, is a progressive neurological disorder of the motor neurons. A person slowly loses the ability to use their hands, walk, chew, and eventually breathe on their own. There is no known cure.

Whatever the reason people do the challenge, it’s sensational and it continues to pick up speed in the social media realm. Our beloved celebrities and musicians have picked up their ice buckets. Even a few politicians have joined in the regale. But the best part of all is that despite the fact that everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and doing it, significant amounts of money are being raised. It definitely made me change my mind about the challenge and the people who participate. You really can’t fault someone for wanting to take an icy bath on a hot summer day if there’s an added bonus of funding an important cause. Every person battling illness deserves help.

One of my favorite sayings is this: a stupid idea that works is not stupid. No matter the reason, this uncommon and terrifying illness is getting the attention it deserves, and I hope this unprecedented phenomenon continues to raise the hope and the spirits of the foundation and the thousands of brave patients for which this funding will benefit.

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Elizabeth McKinnon

Elizabeth McKinnon

A lifelong lover of books and the stage, Elizabeth set out to write her first book in college and her second one while she was working as a medical assistant at a dermatologist's office. In her spare time, she writes plays and short stories and enjoys sharing them with friends and family. She plans to pursue a writing career in medical fiction and is currently working on her third book. Elizabeth is a Pathology Resident at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
Elizabeth McKinnon

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