ALS Ice Bucket Challenge corrupted by participants


Eleanor Bogart-Stuart, staff writer

A bucket of ice and freezing water doesn’t normally scream “charity.” Yet, a new worldwide fad, designed to be charitable, has its participants shouting.  The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was created by the ALS Organization to raise awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease). The challenge is simple: one may donate $100 dollars to the cause or one must pour a bucket of ice water on one’s head. Many chose to do both, which was encouraged. The challenge itself was started with good intentions, but is now seen as a passing fad, like the cinnamon challenge or the interminable Soulja Boy dance.

To take the challenge is to hop on the ever changing boat of what is “in” and what is on its way out.  Last week, it was Flappy Bird. Next week, it’ll be another addictive new iPhone app. Our society clamors over what is hot off the press, only to trash these trends once they cool down.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, I’m afraid, might suffer from this same problem. What ALS truly needs is a steady source of income that will promise a cure to the disease, not the treatment of Trinidad James’s “All Gold Everything.”

“If a million people would donate $100 a year for 30 to 40 years, you might get a breakthrough for ALS,” Dr. Jonathan Serody of the University of North Carolina told NBC News. “These flash-in-the pan things that will go away after a few months will not help ALS in the long run. Researchers need dependable money.”

Its viral qualities don’t guarantee the kind of educated and long-term donors that ALS charities need. Those people who choose not to participate are not evil. Rather, they wish not to participate in something that seems silly and humorous.

According to the Independent, over half of the British people polled didn’t donate to an ALS charity after participating in the Challenge. Fifty-three percent of people who drenched themselves didn’t even know the purpose of their act.

Most importantly, the millions of gallons water and ice thrown around add up. Each seemingly innocent nomination of a friend is actually a dangerous act which rids the Earth of a vital resource.

Courtesy of Veronica Pahomova

California is a perfect example of a place that should not be participating.  Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought State of Emergency in January, and the current conditions imply no change for 2014. Yet, thousands of citizens insist on wasting a full bucket of water thanks to the widespread ignorance the challenge has seemed to spread as much its water.
Governor Brown called our lack of rain “perhaps the worst drought that California has ever seen.” Even this does not stop Californians from taking a  challenge that wastes exactly what they should be saving.

While the Challenge is under much scrutiny, the effect of the Challenge is indisputable. It worked. And it worked well.

Last year, the ALS foundation earned $19.4 million dollars in proceeds last year to support ALS. In 2014, they doubled this earning in a mere month. Now, it’s reached approximately $95 million dollars. According to the Forbes website, the organization has seen more than a 1100% increase in donations, all because of the challenge.

It’s wonderful that this viral trend has done the organization so well. While the minds of the majority may not have embraced the the importance of generosity and proper ethics,perhaps this is a start. Maybe in the future, people will take the time to learn about the causes they’re “supporting.” The best outcome one could hope for from something like this is a kind of ripple effect, in which more and more people in upcoming years are inspired to spend money and time spreading awareness for other types of diseases.

But one can only hope.

The goal for this ill-fated trend is to not let it fade away when something more interesting and trendy comes along. The goal is to make our support of ALS a permanent reality. And, if pouring a bucket of freezing ice water in the middle of a nightmarish drought is the optimal way to reach this goal, then something has gone wrong along the way.

To watch Normans performing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, click here.

To read about the history of ALS, click here.