Scratch This Off Your (Ice) Bucket List


By now, most of us have seen or heard about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. If you haven’t, it’s a public awareness campaign that challenges people to either pour a bucket of ice over their heads or donate $100 to the ALS Association.

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a neurodegenerative disease that affects motor neurons, causing loss of motor functions in victims and eventual paralysis. The ice water aspect is supposed to simulate the feeling that ALS victims endure as a result of their paralysis.

Let it be said: the challenge can be tiring, annoying and repetitive. But, it is also hugely successful in its purpose, design and execution. It’s visual. The challenge itself is short and shareable, able to be easily posted on social media, grabs people’s attention quickly and can be done by anyone. So far, more than 3 million people have donated over $100 million since late July. If you don’t know how big of a deal that is, just for comparison, the ALS Association had raised $2.8 million in the same period last year.

There is only one major problem about the Challenge: the haters.

Criticism of the Ice Bucket Challenge has come from both skeptics who want to find the negative in any popular activity, and well-intentioned people who are troubled over the fact that a serious disease is represented by such a silly activity. Take it from me, howeverthe ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was and has always been a positive campaign.

Some critics say that many people, under the guise of altruism, only do it for attention and just do it to avoid donating money. Yes, it’s beneficial if more people donate. However, even if they do not, even if their intention in doing the challenge is purely self-centered, at least they are helping to spread awareness.

Sometimes, a person’s video of the Challenge can be even more valuable than a monetary donation because they help bring a spotlight to the disease. Even if someone instigates another person to google ALS and find out about it, he or she has already technically contributed a donation to the cause.

When widely-publicized figures like Bill Gates dump a bucket of water on their heads in the name of ALS, it ultimately spreads awareness.

Another argument is that the Challenge is a waste of water. I agree. However, using a small amount of water to promote ALS will not significantly affect the ongoing drought in Texas, nor will it help families in Africa. To the critics, take it like this: the amount of water used in the challenge is probably less than the amount of water used to take one shower. Why don’t you take one less shower, and use that water for a good, important cause?

At the fundamental root of it, the Challenge is simply an effective and successful way to fundraise for ALS. Yes, maybe it takes up water and half of your Facebook news feed, but ultimately, how much does that matter? It’s already helped the battle against a very scary, incurable disease.