Love it or hate it, the Ice Bucket Challenge has taken social media by storm this month and I knew it was only a matter of time before I was challenged to #StrikeOutALS with a bucket and some ice cubes! You can watch my video below, but this isn’t about me. It’s about raising funds for and awareness of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Known in the United States as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that affects a reported 30,000 Americans and an approximate 450,000 people around the world. Like Movember, which aims to “change the face of men’s health” (and raise awareness and funds for prostate and testicaular cancer) throughout November, the #IceBucketChallenge is a fundraising gimmick. Instead of growing a mustache for a month, participants have 24 hours to dump a bucket of ice water on their head and post a video of it on social media while calling out 3 more people do to do the same or donate $100 to the ALS Association. (to donate, click here.) Many people, myself included, will do both: complete the challenge AND donate money (again: donate here.) To date, more than 1.2 million #icebucketchallenge videos have been posted on facebook (Source: Time Magazine) and, as of Sunday, the ALS Association said it had received $13.3 million in donations since July 29, compared with $1.7 million during the same period last year. These included donations from about 260,000 new donors (source: The New York Times.)
So, yes, it’s slacktivism, with a dubious long-term impact (read more on this topic here.) Yes, we’re wasting water when parts of the country are going through droughts (let’s not even start on the energy costs associated with making and transporting ice…) And yes, some of the participants forget to even mention the cause in their videos and they never take the extra steps to visit the ALSA’s website and pay more than lip service to actually learning more about Lou Gehrig’s disease and its impact on the daily lives of patients and their families. But those who do have learned that ALS can strike anyone. That there is no cure for ALS and that the life expectancy of an ALS patient averages two to five years from the time of diagnosis. That for ALS patients, the costs for medical care, equipment and home health caregiving later in the disease is significant. They also learned that the ALS helps families cope with those costs, through the money that it raises, and that it awards thousands of dollars to individual scientists and private industry to accelerate the development of treatments and a cure for the disease. Even if only a small percentage of the 1.2 million people who posted an #IceBucketChallenge video took those extra steps then the campaign was a success. For that reason, I was thrilled to accept my former colleague Tony’s ice bucket challenge and I hope that many more people will.
Please visit www.alsa.org to learn more about Lou Gehrig’s disease and to donate money that will help the fight to treat and cure ALS.