The groups fundraising for cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, HIV, Alzheimer’s and unwanted puppies must be kicking themselves for not dreaming up the ice bucket challenge.
The fundraising phenomena benefiting ALS — amyotrophic lateral sclerosis for the formal minded, Lou Gehrig’s disease for the rest of us — continues to spread like wildfire. Every day bring a new batch of celebrities participating, daring others and sharing the footage of their icy bravery through social media and entertainment news outlets.
For the uninitiated, the challenge works like this. A person is challenged to video record themselves having a bucket of ice water dumped over their head. The participant is then able to challenge others who have 24 hours to either accept or donate $100 to ALS Association. Participants still donate $10 even if they participate although the cool kids take challenge and still pony up the full $100.
Part wet T-shirt contest. Part double dog dares from childhood. Part yet another thing to Tweet and post.
But it all adds up to a huge windfall. The ALS Association announced this week it received nearly $16 million in donations from both new and existing donors between July 29 to Aug. 18. In comparison, it received only $1.8 million in that same span last year.
And frankly, it is really no surprise the challenge has grabbed the public’s attention. It certainly beats the standard marathon and ribbon campaigns.
The snowball effect doesn’t appear in danger of melting anytime soon. Numbers yesterday placed donations at more than $31 million. Chances are lots of everyday people are participating but it is the household names getting all the attention. President Barack Obama and former first lady Laura Bush graciously bowed out by writing checks but others are all over it. Some use it as an opportunity to flex some ab muscles or wear a bikini. Others opt for costumes. Soon there will be more who haven’t been challenged than those who’ve managed to dodge the dare. The cynical view is that many of these celebrities are taking the challenge as much to raise their profile as to raise money. Call it the ice bucket selfie. The optimistic perspective is that self-promotion doesn’t matter if it also promotes awareness of incurable disease. Chances are a great number of people didn’t even know what ALS is before the masses began jumping on the ice bucket bandwagon.
All of this unexpected publicized effort is great to some degree. ALS is far from a picnic and the more funding the better to find a cure. Nobody should begrudge its accomplishments, even those water conservation supporters trying to shame California participants amid the drought.
But what about the other worthwhile causes? What if somebody challenged to receive the icy shower would prefer their donation and attention benefit a different need like leukemia or sickle cell anemia? People are in a way being forced to support ALS over possibly a more pet mission or risk looking like a complete jerk. The issue isn’t that ALS isn’t deserving; it is just that it isn’t alone in that distinction.
Would it be so bad to take the moment of this ice bucket challenge and expand it beyond ALS so that an individual can choose the cause of their choice? The person taking on the challenge can pick for themselves or perhaps the person daring others can do so. In either case, the goodwill isn’t pigeonholed into one box.
The ALS ice bucket challenge is the perfect feel-good hit of the summer. So much more fun than the Kony 2012 Invisible Children push. And it won’t clash with other fashion like a LiveStrong bracelet. Let’s just hope all the focus on this particular cause doesn’t mean others looking for help receive a chilly reception.
Michelle Durand’s column “Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. Follow Michelle on Twitter @michellemdurand What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor: email@example.com.