To Do Or Not To Do The Ice Bucket Challenge

IceBucketChallengeI have been “challenged” to take part in the ice bucket scheme to raise awareness for ALS disease. I have some issues with this. This blog post may make me unpopular with some, but it raises a few questions that I have about this method of raising funds and “awareness”, which of course is only a vehicle to coax people into donating to a particular cause.

There is a misconception on the part of many young people that the mythical “they” will donate money based on the number of videos depicting the dousing of one’s head with a bucket of really cold water (the more the better) which “they” see pop up on social media. But that’s, of course, not true. No one is donating on behalf of the millions of young people taking part in this challenge. The point is, if you are challenged and don’t do the ice water thing, then you are expected to donate and the accepted sum is $100. If you are challenged and you do neither, you are a low-life human being who doesn’t care about 12,000 Americans with this horrific disease. Hang your head, because you suck. Perhaps an exaggeration but a valid visceral response from someone who has an unlimited capacity for guilt combined with a heartfelt desire to not have to douse my head and point the finger at three other unsuspecting friends or family or acquaintances to do the same.

Celebrities are doing this and (why not?) trying to outdo one another with their ice bucket setups. Some buckets are automated, some bigger than others, some participants are in tee shirts while others sacrifice their suits and ties, etc. Kermit the Frog risked death (ice cold water could cause him to go dormant and his heart could stop) but did his naked. That sort of thing. The celebrities are also donating money in addition to the dousing of course because, well, they can afford to do both. Think what bad press any celeb would be who was challenged but chose to ignore it! The closest was Charlie Sheen who dumped a bucket of $100 bills over his head amounting to $10,000 and which he intends to donate to the ALS Foundation.

Unfortunately, most of the people doing the ice dumping are not doing the giving. They are caught up in the challenge because it’s the thing to do right now and believe they are helping by spreading the message. To be fair, sometimes that’s exactly what it does do. But mostly it’s just an exercise in ice dumping.

So what is the point of this? Yes, temporarily, everyone knows there is something called ALS disease which is horrible and getting that diagnosis is almost always fatal. And, not surprisingly, the donations to the ALS Foundation have shot up dramatically. This year to last year (for the same period of days between July 29 and August 18), over eight times as much money has been collected. This is a very good thing.

But will that continue in 2015? Not sure. I doubt it. The ice bucket challenge in 2015 won’t fly because that will be “so last year”. Will anyone be able to come up with an even more challenging challenge next year? And what about all the other charities that want to jump on the awareness/funds bandwagon? Won’t there be a half life of sympathy for these kinds of media stunts? This year, it’s cool, next year, not so much.

I think about all the other neuromuscular diseases we need to be aware of. Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, MS, Muscular Dystrophy. This is by no means a complete list. Shouldn’t we be directing our “awareness” to these diseases too? They are, in fact, much more common. But because so many people have donated to the ALS Foundation, will they consider their good deedery done and neglect donations for other diseases which are just as debilitating?

And this next part is really nit-picky. In several parts of the country, we have drought conditions. The water used may be a drop in the bucket (pun intended) of total consumption but still, it’s something. All that good tap water being spilled. I guess it will eventually end up as ground water so that’s probably not such a big deal. Remember I said it was picky.

And here’s one more picky thing. Would as many people do this in February as in August? How convenient that our awareness is increased in the summer and we don’t have to risk any more than a bad hair day.

Okay. So I was challenged and declined to do the ice dumping and issue the challenge to three others, who may or may not feel as uncomfortable about this as I do. However, I did donate to the ALS Foundation. Because I know it is a really horrible diagnosis and I’d like to see a cure found for it. So the challenge worked in my case. I had never donated to the ALS Foundation before. It hadn’t touched me personally. Like myself, many people are regular contributors to their favorite charities because they have personal experience with it and a vested interest in seeing that particular disease wiped out.

However. I wonder about this method of fund-raising. Walking For [insert disease name here] isn’t going to cut it any more, that’s clear. It will be interesting to see what the next challenge will be.