It has taken society by storm. Yes, it seems the whole United States is in participating in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. For the few that do not know what it that is, it is a social media based challenge to raise money and awareness for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. But what is ALS? How did this challenge come to begin and has it helped or hurt the cause? What does the ALS Association (ALSA) have to say about all this?
The people are divided. Some are singing the challenge’s praises while others condemn it, either because it gives people an opportunity to escape donating, or simply because they think the challenge is plain stupid. Personally, I believe this challenge has done a great deal of good and you should too.
First, let us start with some facts. According to the website for the ALS Association, ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), is a “progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.” Without breaking out the medical diagrams, ALS is when your motor neurons start to degenerate. The basic path these neurons would normally follow is from your brain to your spinal cord to your muscles.
As you can already guess, when these motor neurons degenerate, paralysis becomes a real threat to those who suffer from ALS. Without instructions from the neurons, muscles begin to atrophy and the area of the spinal cord that has the nerves that would control the muscles begins to harden. This is the lateral sclerosis in ALS.
Let’s now look at the part on most folks mind: the money. According to the ALSA website, the group’s revenue overall for 2013 was about $29.1 million, while their expenditures for the same year totaled about $26.2 million. While the ALSA will not have numbers compiled for 2014 until the end of the fiscal year, the NY Daily News reported online that the donations have topped $100 million dollars, quadrupling their revenue in a fraction of the time.
It is news like this that makes me question why anyone would have anything bad to say about the challenge. Aside from the jokes about ice and bucket companies doing well, this challenge seems to only benefit some unfortunate people suffering from a horrid disease. There is even the added (if minute) bonus of having the bucket of ice mean something. It is believed by some that the momentary paralysis that comes with the shock of being doused with ice water is meant to simulate being paralyzed from ALS. Personally, I do not know if I buy that, but it is still a nice touch.
When asked, freshman chemistry major Nathan Loud said that he thinks “[the challenge] is doing a great thing by raising awareness for ALS. More people know about it now than ever before.”
Junior biology major Sean Fernandez said, “I’m not sure exactly how much money has been raised cause of it, but I think it’s been spreading awareness which is a good thing.”
As for those who condemn the challenge as people avoiding donating to a good cause. When the challenge began, the rules were clear. If you were nominated, you had 24 hours to either A) Donate $100 to Charity XYZ or B) Dump a bucket of ice water on your head. The part that garnered the most attention was the numerous videos of people you knew dumping freezing cold water on their heads to get out of a $100 donation to a good cause. Sounds kind of messed up, doesn’t it?
I guess that is the conclusion most of us came to, because the trend now seems to be to do the challenge anyway and still donate money. It is almost as if we have forgotten the reason the behind the challenge, but in the best way possible. The nominations and bucket-dumping go in one hand, while the donations go positively in the other. When you sit back and think about it, and factor how greedy and selfish we can all be at times, it is a pretty impressive thing to be a part of. I am a happy participant of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and I hope that we find a cure soon. Oh, and if you reading this, I hereby nominate you.
You have 24 hours.