If you’re on Facebook, you’ve seen them — the steady stream of videos of people dumping ice and water on their heads. The Ice Bucket Challenge has become a viral fundraiser for the ALS Association. ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
In the challenge, a person or group fills a bucket with ice and water and dumps it on themselves. They then challenge others to do the same. If you accept the challenge, you are supposed to donate $10 to ALS. If you’d rather skip the ice and water, you’re supposed to donate $100.
Athletes, lawyers, military officers and celebrities have taken the challenge. So have Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Mike Michaud. This week, Ethel Kennedy challenged President Barack Obama to join the craze.
Nearly as quickly as the challenge swept the nation, naysayers cropped up. Sharing a video of ice water being dumped on your head may impress your friends, the critics said, but this “slacktivism” is more about self-gratification than helping a charitable cause.
“Basically, instead of donating $10 to Charity XYZ, slacktivism would have you create a Facebook post about how much you care about Charity XYZ — generating immediate and heightened awareness but lacking any actual donations and long-term impact,” Ben Kosinski wrote in a Huffington Post blog.
But, it turns out, the ALS Association, the national group advocating for better treatment of and more research into the fatal degenerative nerve disease, has received far more money since the challenge has started than it typically does at this time of year.
Nationwide, the association received $4 million between July 29 and Aug. 12, compared with $1.1 million during the same time period last year. Since the end of July, donations have come from 70,000 new donors.
The challenge was tied to ALS by Pete Frates of Beverly, Massachusetts. Frates, 29, was diagnosed with ALS in 2012, and the former college baseball player has since worked with the ALS Association’s Massachusetts Chapter to raise awareness of Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The entire New England Patriots and Boston Celtics teams participated this week. Previously, the ice bucket challenge, which was popularized by Martha Stewart, Greg Norman and others, had been more vague, encouraging people to donate to the charity of their choice.
“This is a creative way to spread ALS awareness via social media and in communities nationwide,” said Barbara Newhouse, president and CEO of the ALS Association.
“While the monetary donations are absolutely incredible,” Newhouse said, “the visibility that this disease is getting as a result of the challenge is truly invaluable. People who have never before heard of ALS are now engaged in the fight to find treatments and a cure for ALS.”
So, dump ice water on yourself or a friend — or in the case of the Bangor Police Department, the Duck of Justice — capture it on video, and challenge others to do the same. But make a donation to the ALS Association ( www.alsa.org), or any charity, before you hit the share button.