It’s hard to escape at least some exposure to the phenomenon that is sweeping the world one ice-filled bucket at a time. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has taken over a substantial piece of real estate in social media, news outlets, and late night talk shows. At this rate, it’s likely that every publicly recognizable figure will participate—if they haven’t already—in this challenge before we hit Labor Day. Some of these individuals include Tom Hiddleston, Bill Gates, Martha Stewart, George W. Bush, and Tiger Woods.
The challenge is also finding its way into our personal lives and workplace environments. In fact, management at Jive recently participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge at our 8th birthday party.
With more than a million ice bucket challenge videos shared on the web so far, they are definitely facilitating awareness around the world.
The primary and initial purpose of this challenge has been linked to raising money and awareness for the ALS Association (although multiple charities have benefited from it as well). Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, “is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord” (alsa.org). ALS has affected approximately 30,000 Americans and many others throughout the world. It can ultimately lead to complete paralysis and eventually death. This debilitating disease happens to have affected me personally, as my grandfather passed away from it three years ago.
My grandfather was the ultimate jokester and a borderline hoarder of all things mechanical. He loved to work on cars, have waterfights with his grandkids, and play cards with anyone who was up for a challenge (he wouldn’t go easy on you…even if you were only 7 years old). Joking aside, it came as a big shock to him and our family when he was diagnosed with ALS.
Symptoms first manifested as a delayed reaction in one of his arms. After a short time he lost all functionality in that arm and over the next year and a half he started losing muscle control of his other arm. He was unable to perform simple tasks like bathing, eating, or even playing with his grandchildren. Within a year he was bedridden and had to rely almost entirely on others.
This disease affects not only those afflicted with it, but also the loved ones associated with these individuals. I’m not here to tell you a sob story; rather, one of hope. This challenge has become a trend among celebrities, corporations, the general public, and even politicians,and it’s working! It seems gimmicky and commercialized, and maybe it is—absolutely it is—but it’s raising money and awareness to help cure the disease, and that’s the important part.
My grandfather will not benefit directly from this challenge, but building awareness and raising funds is bringing hope to those affected by this disease currently and in the future. Watching people dump ice-cold water on their heads (or failing miserably) is pretty entertaining, and the challenge has already raised more than 15 million dollars.
Although I have a personal connection to ALS, I believe that ALL diseases, syndromes, and other physical or mental ailments deserve awareness, research, and funding. Maybe this challenge will have a lasting presence and help draw awareness for these. Whether you can’t wait to watch another Ice Bucket Challenge video or if you really want them to go away soon, there’s no doubt it has been a huge success. So until the next viral fundraising/awareness video (or other tactic) comes out, don’t underestimate the power of a challenge!
Interested in the ALS cause? Donate here.