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Don’t Look A Gift Ice Bucket In The Mouth

Surely you’ve seen the dozens of celebrity videos or shaky phone footage of your friends dumping buckets of ice over their heads and then calling out two or three other people to do the same. Bill Gates, Jimmy Fallon, Taylor Swift, and Chris Pratt have all dumped buckets of ice on their heads to speak out. But speak out about what?

Pete Frates, a 29 year old former college baseball player, posted a video on Facebook about three weeks ago to raise awareness and money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. About 30,000 Americans now have the disease, which attacks the nerve cells and leads to total paralysis, but leaves the mind untouched. The life expectancy of those who have it range from two to five years from the time of diagnosis.

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Frates and his wife


What Is The Ice Bucket Challenge?

What happens is someone will make a video of themselves dumping a bucket of ice water over their heads (most male celebrities conveniently wear a white shirt for the challenge. Am I right, Tom Hiddleston?) and then post it to Facebook, Instagram, or another social media site. During the video, they will challenge other people to do the same within 24 hours or they have to donate $100 to ALS. Many people, especially celebrities, will do both.



The Benefits of The Challenge

The challenge has proven to be wildly successful in what Frates was hoping to do when he took over the fad for ALS. People have shared more than 1.2 million videos on Facebook between June 1st and August 13th so far and it has been mentioned more than 2.2 million times on Twitter since July 29th. That’s a whole lot of publicity and awareness being raised for the cause. Donations to the ALS Association have also spiked. As of Sunday, the ALS Association reported that it had received about $13.3 million in donations since July 29th, which is great compared with the amount they received last year in the same period (only about $1.7 million). They estimated that there were about 260,000 new donors and expect the number to rise with all the new celebrities joining in.


The Origins of The Challenge

This challenge was actually started several weeks before Frates tied it to the ALS cause. Originally, Matt Lauer, the host of NBC’s Today Show, had water poured over his head on July 15th after being challenged by the golfer Greg Norman. The charity of choice for Lauer was the Hospice of Palm Beach County. Celebrities like Martha Stewart actually participated before it was associated with ALS. It was in late July that Frates learned about the challenge from his friend, Pat Quinn, a New Yorker who also has ALS. He decided to turn the challenge into a fundraiser for ALS. Frates nominated himself for the challenge but instead of having ice water dumped on his head (mentioning that “ice water and ALS do not mix well” on his Facebook page), Frates recording himself bobbing his head to “Ice Ice Baby”. He challenged some friends and the craze started from there.


The Criticism

Of course, there are some people who are criticizing the campaign. Vice writer, Arielle Pardes believes that the people participating are “masking their narcissism as altruism” while Will Oremus, of Slate, urges people to “just donate the damn money” and that his No Ice Bucket Challenge “requires real fortitude to give away your hard-earned cash without the promise of receiving piles of Facebook likes in return.”

Pardes, of Vice, also criticizes the fact that some celebrities or participants of the Ice Bucket Challenge don’t even mention that they are doing the challenge for a cause. She criticizes that the videos don’t provide any relevant information about ALS and some don’t even mention they are doing it for a cause at all. She also predicts that by the “time the summer heat cools off and ice water no longer feels refreshing, people will have completely forgotten about ALS.” Pretty critical but she may have a point. She compares this social media fad to other fads that came and went like the #Kony2012, #BringBackOurGirls, and red equal sign people used as a profile picture to support equal rights.

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Remember this fad?


The Results Are Still Awesome

Regardless of people’s methods or motives, does it matter if the funds are still going to a good cause? It’s a little naive to think that most people will donate their money out of the goodness of their hearts. Kickstarter campaign donations are based off a reward system; donors (or backers) are given incentives to put money to the cause. Why should people getting 15 seconds worth of fame be considered so different? They get to do something ridiculous, have it viewed by other people, and donate money to a cause that needs some support. Just because some people don’t have to ability to give money to a charity doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to feel good about themselves by helping boost publicity for a good cause by doing the challenge. They get to feel good about themselves even if they can’t donate for whatever reason and ALS Association gets even more publicity. For those people who conveniently wear white shirts to look oh so good during the challenge. Who cares? The cause is still getting coverage and donations, so let those people show off if they want to (Hint hint, Benedict Cumberbatch. Hint, hint).

Remember to wear a white shirt!
Remember to wear a white shirt!

Really, why look a gift bucket in the mouth?