The bandwagon has its uses. Drawing attention to an unknown, underfunded cause, for example, is one of those uses. Our latest social awareness bandwagon subjected to both criticism and praise is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
The premise of the challenge is to post a video of you drenching yourself with a bucket of ice water within 24 hours of being nominated and then donate $10 to the ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) Association. If the challenge is not completed in time, the nominee is supposed to donate $100.
It went viral and gained national attention this summer, when celebrities began posting proof of their own participation in the challenge in addition to donating money to the ALS Association.
The challenge was originated by people impacted by ALS and linked to the ALS Association, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing care for those who suffer from ALS and their families, as well as funding research toward discovering treatments and a cure for the disease.
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. This progressive decay of the nervous system causes gradual paralysis and leads to death. There is currently no cure.
A symptom of the disease is muscle weakness, particularly in relation to speaking, swallowing and breathing. It’s a scary disease, and those who are diagnosed will suffer from it for their entire lives.
Since the challenge became viral in mid-July, the ALS Association has received almost $95 million in donations, according to a press release on the ALS Association’s website.
There’s no doubt the campaign has been effective. There’s no doubt the money is going toward a worthy cause.
My doubt, my concern, is that too many people don’t take the challenge seriously. They participate and nominate others because — let’s be real — it’s hilarious to watch how people react to being dunked in ice water.
But that’s only part of the challenge. The other part is to actually talk about ALS and the work the ALS Association does, and to actually donate to help make a difference in someone’s life.
It’s hard for college students to give away their money. I totally get that. But when a campaign’s cause is erased for the sake of an uninterrupted laugh, we’re silencing the voices of the thousands of people who suffer ALS and taking away their chance at a better life.
So when you’re dumping ice-cold water on yourself and directing others to do the same because it’s amusing to watch people scream, keep in mind that the ice bucket challenge is more than easy entertainment.
It’s the face of a cause to help relieve the suffering of individuals with a debilitating disease.