By Suzanne Sparrow Watson
Last August the world was taken captive by seemingly reasonable people everywhere dumping buckets of ice over their heads. The cause, of course, was the “Ice Bucket Challenge”, a fund-raising effort for ALS, sometimes referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”. The “challenge” was that people either dumped a bucket of ice over their heads or donate $100 to the ALS Association. Once the bucket was overturned the participant then challenged three friends to the task. It was impossible to go on any social media account or turn on the TV without seeing someone dumping ice – from former Presidents to Oprah. You know it’s serious when Oprah does something. Not to mention that my brother and co-blogger, Bob, participated in the challenge and coerced his kids to take part as well. I have to admit, I was pretty skeptical of the whole endeavor. My feeling is that when something becomes “the thing to do” it generally loses all serious intent. Plus, we’ve all read about charity fund-raisers that don’t result in many funds actually going to the charity. I figured that it was AUGUST, for Heaven’s sake, so people in most parts of the country were more than happy to bathe themselves in ice. I was not one of them.
And then something happened that hit very close to home – the husband of a dear friend was diagnosed with ALS in January. It has been devastating to them and to all of us that care about them. They are coming to grips with the effects of the disease and learning all they can about it. As it turns out, the ALS Association is a wonderful resource, providing not only guidance and support, but actually supplying wheelchairs and any other equipment that a family needs to accommodate the manifestations of the disease. So my friend was telling me the other day that the ALS Association volunteer mentioned that they had been able to purchase a lot of equipment to lend out because of money they got from the “Ice Bucket Challenge”. Suddenly, I felt a bit embarrassed that I had not dumped ice on my head. So being the nerd that I am, I set off to research whether the Phoenix Chapter of the ALS Association was unusual or whether “the Challenge” had done as much in other areas of the country as well.
As it turns out, those intrepid people at CNBC were thinking the same thing. Last month one of their reporters, Meg Tirrell, investigated whether the “Ice Bucket Challenge” had been a social media phenomenon or an effective fund-raiser. Turns out, it was both. The “Ice Bucket Challenge” actually raised $115 million for the ALS Association, compared to their annual budget of $60 million. How did they raise that much when so many people chose to dump ice? Because people both dumped and donated. Which should help to restore your faith in human kindness this Monday morning. And to cheer you up even further, it turns out that Phoenix was not the only area to benefit – it helped ALS Associations all over the country buy equipment, provide respite care programs, and maybe most importantly, it funded four research projects aimed at better understanding , and thus finding a cure, for what causes ALS. All four projects had been stopped due to a lack of research money.
There is no word yet as to whether the “Ice Bucket Challenge” is going to be an annual event or whether it was just a one-time phenomenon. Hopefully it will take place again in August and I can assure you, I will be dumping ice and donating with the best of them. And I’m also taking part in the “Defeat ALS” walk in October. Family and friends be warned – I’m going to hit you up for some of your hard-earned money when I strap on my walking shoes. And just to add a degree of difficulty to the walk, I’ll dump a bucket of frozen Margaritas over my head as I pass the finish line. I think that could catch on.