ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Makes a Splash

Since June 14, 2014, just over 2.5 million people have posted photos and videos on Instagram under the hashtag #ALSIceBucketChallenge. The viral social media campaign to raise both awareness and money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, has brought in over $115 million for the ALS Association. However, despite the influx of attention and donations for the incurable degenerative muscle disease that afflicts 30,000 Americans, many people are opposed to this unconventional fundraising campaign.The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge requires participants to record a video of themselves pouring ice water over their heads. The participants then upload this video to a social media site (often Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter) and nominate 3 of their friends to take the challenge. When nominated, participants have 24 hours to post a video of their ice bucket challenge. If they fail to post the video within the given time frame, they are expected to donate between $10 and $100, depending on what the challenger specifies, to the ALS Association.

The first ice bucket challenge was posted to Instagram on May 29th. However, it wasn’t until June 14th that the challenge became linked to ALS. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge can be traced back to professional golfer Chris Kennedy who, in a video posted on Youtube, nominated 3 of his friends to take the challenge or donate $100 to

During the peak of the challenge’s popularity, from July 29th to August 29th, the Association received over $100.9 million; only $2.8 million had been raised over the same period the year before. Despite the fact that celebrities and corporations including Leonardo diCaprio, Wells Fargo, and the New York Yankees have each donated over $100,000 to the charity in the past, the vast majority of donations are coming from everyday Americans. A press release from the ALS Association on August 29th thanked the 3 million people who donated any amount from $1 to $200,000.

Maddy Nakada takes on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Maddy Nakada takes on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The number one complaint among critics of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is that everyone should simply donate money. They argue that if everyone donated and took part in the challenge, even more money could have been raised. Other opponents argue that the ice bucket portion of the challenge should be eliminated completely and that participants should donate to the organization without subjecting themselves to the ice cold water.

In California, the latter alternative is especially relevant due to our drought. Proponents of simply giving money to ALS charities point out that when California residents are being fined in some counties for excessive water use, it’s unfair that other Californians, who get their water from the same sources, waste 2-3 gallons of water per challenge when they could just give the money and save the water.

The ALS Association spends 79% of donations on the research of ALS and the care of ALS patients. Furthermore, the ALS Association is highly acclaimed by Charity Watch, Charity Navigator, a Better Business Bureau, and Guidestar Exchange, all websites that assist donors in picking which charities are credible and which they should donate to. However, on August 28th the satirical news site, Political Ears, published an article that stated that 73% of donations to the ALS Association don’t go to research or care but rather to employee salaries. The article went on to declare that because the organization spent 27% of the donations on the research and care of ALS patients it technically was not a non-profit.

Despite the fact that the article was satirical, a number of readers, unaware of the article’s source, took it to be fact.

Although excitement about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has faded, the fad is far from over. As of September 29th the challenge had moved on to South Africa, where searches for “ALS ice bucket challenge” are still at 44% of what they were in mid-August. Despite the controversy, it’s indisputable that the $100 million raised for the ALS Association, with $21.7 million already pledged towards research, will help the over 30,000 Americans who are living with the disease. It will give them hope, as the money is used in research to improve their quality of life and to find a cure.

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About Maddy Nakada

Maddy is currently a senior at Lick-Wilmerding High School and Co-Editor-in-Chief for the Paper Tiger. Maddy began writing short stories in second grade and enjoyed writing both stories and essays all throughout elementary school. Maddy first became interested in journalism in sixth grade and started a middle school newspaper. While not writing, Maddy runs both cross-country and track and is part of ASIA Club.

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