The ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ has taken social media by storm, with thousands of people voluntarily soaking themselves in freezing water. This activity may require a fair amount of courage, but it’s raised an unprecedented amount of money for charity.
The ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ reportedly started in the US, when former baseball player and ALS sufferer Pete Frates posted a video of himself pouring freezing water on his head, and challenging other players to do the same. Since then, the Ice Bucket Challenge has gone viral, with celebrities including Benedict Cumberbatch, George W. Bush, Lady Gaga and Mark Zuckerberg all taking part. By asking participants to donate via text once they have completed the challenge, the campaign managed to raise over £48 million in less than one month.
ALS, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, is referred to as Motor Neurone Disease here in the UK, and is a condition that affects the brain and spinal cord, causing motor neurons to die. The disease causes paralysis and even death, with no known cure.
The ALSA, the American charity for the disease, played no part in initiating or organising the challenge. Despite this, the campaign has become an exceptional fundraising source for the charity, tugging at the internet’s collective heart strings.
According to Jennifer Polk, an analyst at American information technology research and advisory firm, Gartner, the campaign’s success lies in creating a compelling message. The challenge has taken a serious disease, and attached it to ‘a social behaviour that’s hilarious’, she commented. The challenge also ends with an effective call to action. The participant must nominate friends to do the same within 24 hours; a concept that’s undoubtedly helped the challenge to go viral so quickly.
The Ice Bucket challenge has certainly raised awareness of the condition, but it has not gone without causing a bit of controversy too. Residents of drought-stricken Henan in China have opposed the idea of wasting water, when millions of people do not have access to a source that is adequately clean. By the same token, Hollywood actor Matt Damon completed his ice bucket challenge with toilet water. Damon commented that the challenge posed a problem for him “Not only because there is a drought here in California but also I co-founded Water.org and we envision a day when everybody has access to clean drinking water… so putting a clean bucket of water on my head seemed a little crazy.”
Somewhat more practically, an Indian journalist has proposed that participants instead complete the Rice Bucket Challenge, and give a bucket of rice to someone who needs it.
Other celebrities have also challenged the idea, including Pamela Anderson who refused to take part due to the fact that the ALSA has been accused of animal testing.
Fortunately for the less daring, the main UK charity for the condition, the Motor Neurone Disease Association, does not require anyone to pour ice water on themselves in order to donate. They are still accepting donations on their website, as well as on their Just Giving page.