Aug. 26 — If you ever had any question about what “going viral” means, look no further than the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
It’s a perfect fit for social media. It’s visual, fun, involves famous people, includes calling out your friends, and gives you a chance to check out people’s reactions to an extremely uncomfortable situation.
And it’s raising a lot of money. Time magazine reported Monday that the ALS Association has raised almost $80 million since July 29. It raised only about $23 million all of last year.
As Samantha Madison reported in Monday’s edition of The Sentinel, the premise is basic Film yourself dumping a bucket of ice water over your head, challenge three friends to do the same and donate $10 to the ALS Association. Don’t want to dump water on your head? Donate $100 to the association.
The success is quite an accomplishment for an organization fighting what’s better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Gehrig was the famed New York Yankees first baseman who died of ALS in 1941 and brought a high level of attention to the disease in his era.
The challenge’s origins are the subject of debate, but it’s safe to say in less than two months, it’s washed across the country (pun intended) in a way that a fad even 10 years ago would have been hard-pressed to match.
But it’s not without controversy. For example, several large dioceses of the Catholic church have taken issue. Cincinnati discouraged its 113 schools from participating in the challenge because the ALS Association funds embryonic stem cell research, in conflict with Catholic teaching. Some object to the association’s animal testing. Others take issue with wasting water, a resource scarce in other parts of the world.
Still others say that there are bigger issues that should be brought to light. Actor Orlando Jones, for example, dumped a bucket of bullet casings over his head to bring attention to the shooting death of Michael Brown by St. Louis police.
This phenomenon will cool off (again, pun intended). It still seems to be going strong at this point, however. We wonder what other types of fundraising efforts will go viral in attempts to gain similar levels of success in the future.
One closing note: Let’s not forget that ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is far from fun. According to the ALS Association website, it’s a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.
So let’s not lose sight of the fact that while it’s a fun phenomenon, at its core are the life-and-death travails of the approximately 5,600 people in the United States who are diagnosed each year.