Unless you have spent the last month on a desert island, there is a good chance you have heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It is a craze that has spread around the world, where people are challenged to pour a bucket of ice water – the icier, the better – over their heads, all on film. The participant then nominates three others to take undertake the challenge. Where this craze differs from other internet memes is that it is designed to raise awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – known as motor neurone disease in the UK – as well as raise money for the charities involved in supporting sufferers and looking for a cure. Each participant donates money to the ALS Association in America, or the Motor Neurone Disease Association in the UK, and if a nominee refuses to take part, they are encouraged to pay a fine.
ALS or motor neurone disease is a terrible, debilitating illness that causes the sufferer’s muscles to weaken and atrophy over time until they are eventually unable to move or look after themselves. There is no known cure.
As with all crazes, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has attracted its share of criticism, from participants being accused of taking part as a means of self-aggrandisement, to other media commentators like William Foxton from the Daily Telegraph describing the challenge as “a middle-class wet-T-shirt contest for armchair clicktivists”. The cynic in me can understand these points of view to a certain extent, but there is one aspect of the craze that cannot be argued.
According to Time Magazine, since it started, the campaign has raised over $50 million in the US for the ALSA. It is estimated over £8 million has been raised in the UK. This is an incredible amount for these previously little-known charities, and will provide a welcome boost in both the support for sufferers and the ongoing search for a cure.
Yesterday, I was nominated to take part in the challenge by my step-brother. I thought long and hard about taking part. There is an element of self-centredness in taking part, especially in the posting videos. There is the risk that those taking part feel they have “done their bit” and sit back while other worthy causes lose out. But it would take a hard-hearted person not to see the benefits from the Ice Bucket Challenge far outweigh these criticisms, both in money raised and in much needed exposure for this horrible disease, so I decided to take part.
Here is the video of my Ice Bucket Challenge:
If you are in the US and would like to donate money to the ALSA, please click on the line here.
If you are in the UK, you can donate to the Motor Neurone Disease Association by clicking here.