After watching countless Ice Bucket Challenge videos, I am not at all ashamed to admit that I had to look up that ALS stood for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis before writing this piece. Also referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” ALS is a neurodegenerative disease, which means that nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord are deteriorated, taking away your limbs, your ability to speak, your ability to breathe, and finally your life. Most people die in two to five years from initial diagnosis.
While awareness and education have increased some from the challenge, I don’t think that’s really what the point of taking the challenge. It’s not helping anyone to know the details of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or how many people die from it a year, the brilliance is that the Ice Bucket Challenge puts the ALS Association on the map as a charity worthy of donations.
The strategy is simple: reminiscent of email chain letters, the Ice Bucket Challenge propagates itself via not just requiring the participant to respond, but to challenge others to do the same. Once challenged, a person can dump a bucket of ice water on their head, donate money to the ALS Association, or do both. I should note that you aren’t going to have ten years of bad luck if you don’t do either- there’s no punishment for not responding.
Whether a person donates or not, whether they are doing it just because they want to show off their swimsuit body or to feel like they’re cool, by participating, they’re challenging others that could donate. Their intentions don’t matter so much as that they are spreading it. As long as people keep challenging others, given enough participants and a good enough cause, the organization is sure to be raising money to help people with ALS.
And money has been raised. The numbers speak for themselves as, according to the ALS Association website, the association has seen “$79.7 million in donations compared to $1.9 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to Aug. 25). These donations have come from existing donors and 1.7 million new donors to the association.”
Whether you take the Ice Bucket Challenge and choose to dump a bucket of ice water on your head, donate money to the ALS association, or both, you’re still helping raise money just by challenging others and helping find a cure for ALS.