#IceBucketChallenge: Stop throwing cold water on a good thing

August 15, 2014

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the person who developed the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge” viral campaign deserves a raise. In a two week time period, awareness has increased exponentially and more than $4 million in donations have been raised. That is nearly a $3 million dollar increase over the same time period last year. I call that an indisputable success. I also call it exactly what a viral campaign is intended to do.

And yet, there are many throwing cold water (pun intended) on a good thing. My Facebook feed has gone from being filled with adults, children and celebrities alike, pouring ice-filled buckets over their heads, to naysayers criticizing the campaign for a variety of reasons.

Just in the last few hours, I’ve seen the following commentary:

Let me address each of these criticisms separately. Because I truly feel they deserve rebuttals.

“So this ALS challenge.... Is the goal to raise awareness or raise funds for finding a cure?”

The answer is both. The challenge has most certainly raised awareness of a debilitating, tragic disease that deserves attention. It is a disease that took the life of a vibrant, intelligent and fun-loving man who my father called his closest friend. This man, over the course of many years, became trapped inside his body with a mind as sharp and insightful and as funny as always. We knew he was inside, but his ability to communicate, walk, breathe, sit, and even tend to his most basic needs were stolen from him.

And so through the “Ice Bucket Challenge” my children now know what ALS is. I’d venture your children do as well. So do my neighbors, my friends and strangers alike. And that’s a good thing. Awareness leads to compassion. It leads to discussion. It leads to possible early detection. And it may lead to increased funds dedicated to finding a cure. Perhaps even one child is so inspired by their newfound awareness, that some day they may find the cure for ALS.

“Great to see y'all pourin' ice on yer heads. But doesn't that just mean you don't need to give any money?”

No, it doesn’t mean that. In fact, the mission of the campaign is that those that accept the challenge each donate $10; those that don’t, donate $100. Whatever the amounts, people are donating. And on top of driving awareness, the campaign is also raising money. A lot of money. Consider this message from The ALS Association’s president and CEO, Barbara Newhouse.

“With only about half of the general public knowledgeable about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, the Ice Bucket Challenge is making a profound difference. Since July 29, The Association has welcomed more than 70,000 new donors to the cause. While the monetary donations are absolutely incredible, the visibility that this disease is getting as a result of the challenge is truly invaluable. People who have never before heard of ALS are now engaged in the fight to find treatments and a cure for ALS."

The ALS Assocation believes this money is making a “profound difference.” Aren’t they the experts? And with 70,000 new donors, they have 70,000 new ambassadors, spokespersons and supporters. I’d argue that contribution is priceless.

“#IceBucketChallenge: Why You're Not Really Helping”

In what I believe is an unfairly negative and dare I say intentionally provocative blog on HuffingtonPost, Ben Kosinski outlines multiple reasons as to why the campaign is not successful. In a nutshell, his hypothesis seems to center around “slacktivism,” the idea that without donating any money, people are afforded the ability to feel like they’ve done something beneficial without really having done anything at all. Ben argues that instead of participating in the challenges, participants should donate the money they have likely spent on ice and pails to The ALS Association.

Emphasizing what he believes is the self-centered and promotional nature of the campaign, he writes, “We're social creatures. We're using the #IceBucketChallenge to show off our summer bodies. We're using it to tag old friends. We're using it to show people we care. We're using it to feel a part of something bigger than ourselves. We're using it to promote ourselves, in one way or another.”

Really, Ben? Can we not just let the good intentions of people be enough? People care. They are doing what they can. Collectively, they are making a difference. Why must we find fault in that rather than celebrate the positive? I’d argue that you’re just looking to get attention. Therefore, you have succeeded equally as well as the “Ice Bucket Challenge.” After all, I’ve just written a post about you.

And so while I’m sure the critics’ voices will still find fault, I’m hopeful that supporters will continue to mobilize with a louder voice (and even more ice). I for one, in a news cycle filled with war, death, looting and intolerance, am just fine with reading about good people doing a good thing for a good cause.

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