Like many people, over the last week my Facebook feed has been flooded with videos of friends doing the #IceBucketChallenge. For those of you who haven’t seen it, the challenge is to pour a bucket of ice water on your head, post a video of it on social media and then nominate others to do the same. If you don’t complete the challenge within 24 hours, you’re asked to donate to the ALS charity of your choice. The purpose is to raise awareness about ALS. The movement was started by Pete Frates, a Boston man who has been living with ALS since 2012.
When I first heard about it, I was skeptical. It should not be a punishment to donate to a charity. I’ve seen this argument and others debated in many articles over the last week. But then I read more. The ALS Association’s national president shared that the organization had raised $168,000 online nationally last week, compared to $14,000 during the same period in 2013. And that’s not even a final count. So the challenge seems to be working.
Beyond the incredible uptick in monetary donations, the challenge is achieving its goal of spreading awareness. I’m a great example. As much as I hate to admit it, I barely knew anything about ALS before this week. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, affecting muscle function. The disease can affect anyone and approximately 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed each year.
Sure, there are some people out there simply pouring a bucket of water on their head and moving on. Working in PR, I know it can take a lot to spread awareness, but the more people you can reach, the more chance there is for meaningful change. In the case of the Ice Bucket Challenge, the combination of required social sharing and good timing (pouring an icy bucket of water on your head in the middle of summer ain’t bad) has built a strong awareness campaign.
It finally happened last night. I saw it getting closer and closer to my circle of friends and I knew it was inevitable. I was nominated for the challenge. Let’s just say there will definitely be a donation along with my ice shower.
Read more about ALS and make a donation on the ALS Association website.