Called the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, this new internet phenomena is intended to raise awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, after the famous baseball player who died of the disease in the 1940’s), a neurodegenerative disease that gradually impairs nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, leading to the loss of muscular control, paralysis and death.
The challenge is simple: fill a bucket with ice water, pour it over your head while someone films you, post it to Facebook or Twitter and challenge a few other people to do the same thing within 24 hours or to make a $100 donation to the ALS Association, or both.
The concept of using a bucket of ice water to raise awareness about ALS originated from former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2012. Along with Pat Quinn, another ALS patient who is the center of the charity Quinn for the Win, they challenged their social circles to take the challenge and raise awareness and funds.
Thus far over 1.2 million ice bucket challenge videos have been uploaded to Facebook and more than 15 million people across the globe have engaged with the videos, whether it be through posting them, commenting on them, or liking them. And the trend has spread to celebrities as well, with prominent figures such as Mark Zuckerberg, Jimmy Fallon, Adam Levine, Ethel Kennedy, Justin Timberlake, Bill Gates, Martha Stewart, Oprah, and Taylor Swift.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the ALS Association has raised $7.6 million from donations in two weeks, an amazing increase from the $1.4 million it raised during the same period last year. The Challenge has also done a great deal to raise awareness about the disease. Apparently only about half of the American population was aware and informed about the disease, but since the Challenge’s commencement, the Association has received over 70,000 new donors, suggesting an increase in these numbers.
“We have never seen anything like this in the history of the disease,” said Barbara Newhouse, President and CEO of The ALS Association. “We couldn’t be more thrilled with the level of compassion, generosity and sense of humor that people are exhibiting as they take part in this impactful viral initiative.”
Recently, critics have slammed the Ice Bucket Challenge saying the whole thing is a waste of everyone’s time, but numbers don’t lie, especially the multi-millions ALS Association received. While the critics did make a valid point, pouring a bucket of ice water over your head will not help ALS, donating money will. If you are given the challenge try to at least donate some money and educate yourself on this phenomenal charity.
Every year around 5,600 people are diagnosed with ALS. There is currently no cure for the illness, and the only form of treatment is an FDA approved drug which can extend an individual’s life by two or three months. The ALS Association is striving to find a cure for the illness, as well as to provide the best care and lifestyle possible for those living with the disease. They hope that the challenge will continue to raise awareness and funds for their cause, and also that it will encourage those living with ALS to sign up for their national registry, so that they can collect information that will go to supporting their research on the illness and a suitable treatment and cure.
Want to get in on the fun? Here are the rules!
Participants have 24 hours to pour a bucket of ice water over their head on video after they have been challenged. In the video participants must challenge three more people to do the Ice Bucket Challenge. If they do not complete the challenge, they must donate $100 to the ALS Association.
(We do encourage those to donate some money even if you do take on the challenge. You will be making a huge difference in the lives of others.)
If you would like to donate money to the ALS Association click here.
**Spandana Singh also contributed to this article.**