We’ll never know how many people will ultimately feel the thrill of the chill in the splash-for-cash craze known as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. But there’s not an icicle’s chance in the Sahara to doubt that the viral social media blitz taken to backyards and ballfields across America has been a windfall for the ALS Foundation.
Former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates has been living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) since 2012 and is credited with launching the phenomenon where supporters pour buckets of ice and water onto themselves in order to raise awareness and cash for the disease. Frates is pictured above at Fenway Park in Boston.
Participation across the country just in the last two weeks has reached tsunami level and shows no signs of ebbing any time soon.
As of Sunday, Aug. 17, the deluge of donations had reached $13.3 million raised for the non-profit ALS Association, up considerably from the $1.6 million during the same period last year. More than 1.2 million challenge-related videos have been shared on Facebook. The ALS Association’s mission is to treat and find a cure for ALS, as well as providing care and support for those suffering from it.
Of those giving cold cash, 260,000 are new donors. Those challenged by friends on social outlets like Facebook have 24 hours to complete their own dousing, or contribute $100 to ALS. Obviously those wielding buckets are contributing financial flood as well.
There is basically no method to track how many have taken the challenge as the ether, social and otherwise, continues to be awash with individuals being doused. But the roster of the wetted is a cavalcade of sports, TV and silver screen, political and entertainment personalities, including Justin Timberlake, Martha Stewart, Michael Strahan, Mark Zuckerberg, Chris Christie, Oprah Winfrey and Ethel Kennedy. President Barack Obama passed on the challenge and said he would make a contribution.
Members of the Junction Creative team joined in accepting their challenges. Director of Operations Marci Cropp made a video-selfie of her dousing, in honor of a friend dealing with ALS. Account Executive B.J. Small was drenched, as well.
As many as 30,000 Americans are living with Lou Gehrig’s Disease at any given time. Beloved professional baseball player Lou Gehrig brought ALS to the national and international forefront, when it ended his career. The disease is so often associated with Gehrig that it bears his name. It strikes worldwide between the ages of 40 and 70 most commonly. Life expectancy for those with ALS is between two and five years. It is not contagious and is responsible for nearly two deaths per hundred thousand population. It is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease, affecting nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. As motor neurons from the brain to spinal cord to muscles die, patients in later stages of ALS become totally paralyzed.
The Ice Bucket Challenge has been the perfect blend of motivations as a project that would appeal to the masses: a worthwhile cause; compassionate enlightenment of the disease by those close to those suffering the most and, as exhibited by the challenge itself, even total strangers; an opportunity to produce unique selfies; and a theatrical curtain call for adding value to social media posts.
As with most popular movements, the challenge has its cynics and jealousies as the legion of the drenched continues to swell. Some see the rising tide as mere grandstanding. The term “slacktivism” has been attached to the effort. Slacktivism is the act of “donating” a social media post in lieu of cash; as if an individual post is of higher value than a monetary contribution.
Pete Frates may have triggered the tidal wave of cash for ALS, but the challenge actually rained funds onto other charities earlier this summer. “Today” show anchor Matt Lauer was plunged live, on-air to support a hospital in July. As well, there are Facebook posts of the challenge being accepted by supporters of the cause “Girls on the Run.”
It may be impossible to quantify the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in terms of total social posts, buckets of water dripped, ice cubes tipped, and shivers and squeals from the shock of each personal, polar vortex. Motives themselves may continue to be challenged.
But the cold, hard-water fact is, more people know more about ALS now than ever before, and the cause is saturated with funding to do its good work.