ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Dumb Stunt or Change Agent?

by Bill Brenner on August 12, 2014

Like pretty much everyone else on Facebook, my news feed has been full of videos of friends and relatives dumping a bucket of ice on their heads to raise awareness of ALS and money for research that may one day lead to better treatment.

Some people have suggested this is a useless exercise, something people are doing so friends on Facebook can say, “Wow, look how awesome that person is.”

Is that so?

Mood music:

For some people, probably.

According to one local ALS Association chapter, the challenge calls for people to get doused with buckets of ice water on video, posting that video to social media, and then nominating others to do the same, all to raise ALS awareness. Those who refuse to take the challenge are asked to make a donation to the ALS charity of their choice.

I’m certainly for raising awareness of ALS, a terrible disease that has killed people I know and left families devastated. If people dousing themselves gets others to take it more seriously, I’m for that. I’m for raising money to fight it even more.

And I’ll admit that I enjoy watching friends and relatives doing this on video. It’s harmless fun.

Like all awareness causes, I’d like to see more.

People in these videos say they’re raising awareness, but many of them aren’t talking about the disease itself. Some are, but most are just announcing what they’re doing and dousing themselves.

To make this a more effective exercise, I suggest people throw in some dialogue. Tell us about people you know who have suffered at the hands of ALS. Give us some statistics of how many people are afflicted each year and how many die from it. Shed some light on what the research money is being used for.

Nothing raises awareness like details.

If people are filming themselves performing the stunt instead of donating, then it’s a hollow deed that fuels the argument that there’s some narcissism at work.

In the big picture, though, I think people have their hearts in the right place, and they seem to be getting results.

The ALS Association says it raised $1.35 million nationally from July 29 to August 11. A spokesperson for the association told Fox News they raised $22,000 during the same period in 2013.

So keep dumping the ice on your head. And add some personal stories to your videos to make the tragedy of ALS more real.

UMass leaders take the Ice Bucket challenge. Photo from CBS NewsUMass Medical School Chancellor Michael Collins and Chair and Professor of Neurology Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, accept the Ice Bucket Challenge. Photo from CBS News.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jone August 13, 2014 at 11:22 am

Well said! Yes, details should be added with this stunt, as my husband had no clue when we watched it this morning on the news. I had previously seen it on another channel that talked about the ALS and the donation one should give after performing the stunt but none of this was given in the other news coverage … it morphed into just a jackass stunt for no reason! I would like to hear the person give their name and state how much money they are donating to the ALS cause after they douse themselves.

I'm sorry August 19, 2014 at 9:53 pm

ALS is no doubt a horrible disease and it’s great that thus far over $1m has been raised, but I’m sorry in the big picture, there are far worse problems that could use the money.

For example:
ALS kills about 6,000/year in the US
Cancer kills over 500,000/ year in the US
Abortions… over 1,000,000/year in the US (over 40,000,000/year worldwide.. that’s 40 MILLION)
Suicides… 40,000/ year in the US
Drunk Driving… 10,000/year
Stroke… over 100,000 /year

..and so on… So ALS awareness is fine… but be sure to donate your hard earned cash to what you feel is most important, not what others “challenge” you to do.

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