Of Buckets and Ice and Charity

I have lost two people very dear to me to ALS.  Two of my mother’s best friends.  It’s a horrendous disease, and there is no cure.  The only treatments are designed to relieve symptoms and improve the quality of life for patients.  Even drugs that “improve” survival only lengthen it by a matter of months.  So I have been aware of this for a long time.

2014.  Cue the Ice Bucket Challenge.  In case you have no TV and refuse to look at facebook, it works like this:  A person is nominated by someone to meet the challenge.  The challenged person must – within 24 hours of the challenge – fill a bucket full of ice and water; they will then state who nominated them to do the challenge and will nominate three other individuals of their choice to take part in it. The person then dumps the bucket of ice and water onto themselves. They are then to donate US $10 (or a similar amount in their local currency) to ALS research at the ALS Association in the US, or Motor Neurone Disease Association in the UK, or another local research foundation. Anyone who refuses to have the ice and water dumped on them is expected to donate US $100 to ALS research.

It began to gain momentum when personalities from sports and morning news programs performed the challenge live on the air. This was quickly followed by numerous celebrities, politicians, athletes, and everyday folks posting videos of themselves meeting the challenge online and on TV.  According to The New York Times, people shared more than 1.2 million videos on facebook between June 1 and August 13 and mentioned the phenomenon more than 2.2 million times on twitter between July 29 and August 17.

This fund-raising craze that has gone viral has both pros and cons.  On the pro side, it has increased awareness of the disease on a phenomenal level, and has raised millions of sorely needed dollars for research.  As of August 25, the Ice Bucket Challenge raised $79.7 million for the ALS Association, compared to $2.5 million raised over the same period in 2013.  On the con side, there may be dangers for people with specific medical conditions to take the challenge, and the craze has been criticised for being self-congratulatory, focusing primarily on fun rather than donating money to charity.  (Some folks, like Bill Gates and Charlie Sheen, have emhasized in their videos that the point is to donate money.)  Other critics have said that considering the water shortage in places around the world, it is a foolish stunt.  (Matt Damon, co-founder of water.org, an organization focused on providing access to safe water and sanitation throughout the world, brought this up when he was challenged.  He solved his dilemma by using water he scooped out of his toilet, so as not to waste any.)  There have also been some spectacular fails as people attempt stupid stunts to go along with the ice and water, some causing injuries.

If that much money has been raised to fund research, I don’t have much of a problem with the silly fun of it.  And there will always be foolish people who do foolish things in the name of “fun”, not much we can do about that.

There have been quite a few videos of Israelis taking the challenge.  Several were interrupted by air raid sirens warning of a rocket attack, adding a little extra drama.

Yesterday kidlet got her first challenge.  Today I became her photographer as she met her obligation.  Money has been set aside to donate.

She nominated three more of her friends (after telling her own challenger to “drop dead, thanks”).  She forgot some of the script she had practiced, but added it to her facebook post.

At least she kept me out of it.  I don’t need ice on my head to give to charity…


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