The Ice Bucket Challenge, a campaign to raise donations for and awareness of ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), has been around for a few months. But then friends and family of Pete Frates, a former Boston College baseball player, took up the challenge, and it moved like that virus on the new TV show The Last Ship.
I saw football player Julian Edelman accept the challenge—in the short video, you explain what you're doing and why, dump a bucket of ice over your head (he used a Gatorade sideline "bucket"), and challenge other people. Those people are required by the challenge to comply in 24 hours or make a donation to ALS. Then I heard that the owner of the New York Giants challenged Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, and Bill Belichick, the head coach (who had been challenged by others, too). The other day at practice, the whole team took the challenge and passed it along to the Jets (as did Jimmy Fallon; the Patriots also challenged the Dolphins and Bills). The Jets of course had to one-up them and used a fire hose.
The Kennedys took the challenge as a family, including 86-year-old Ethel Kennedy, who is just awesome. She challenged President Obama, got irritated at her granddaughter for helping her raise the bucket, and dumped it all over herself while wearing a white outfit.
This morning I found out my father-in-law also took it with a couple of his employees, challenging a fellow Gulf terminal.
So this is all fun and stuff, one of those things that penetrates the collective consciousness, brings us all together, and is just amusing to watch, right? Plus, of course, we're all saying "ALS" on a regular basis, because luckily the point of the game hasn't been buried under the friendly competition.
But it turns out to be so much more. According to the ALS Association, they have received—in two weeks!—over $4 million. That's almost four times as much as the same period last year, with three times as many donors. ALS is a 100% fatal disease with little treatment available, so the importance of this awareness and research money can't be underestimated.
[Edited 8/24/24: An article posted 8/19 stated that $15 million had been raised, and then on 8/22 was updated to $53 million. !!! The article also talks about whether the ALSA stands up to scrutiny as a charity.]
So I'll take ubiquitous food pictures and the occasional moronic uproar on social media, because the technology and societal factors that make stupid things possible also help make awesomeness possible, too.
[Edited to go along with the above edit: It is irrelevant if this is "episodic" giving that won't result in repeat donations. That doesn't negate they money and awareness that has been raised already, and I doubt the decline will be to baseline. Also, people DID give to other/additional charities during this viral challenge, and always will. Disasters and fun awareness campaigns help us focus our giving when otherwise it's a blur of noise and desperation making us feel that what we do is never enough. So I'm still all for it! :) ]