The unprecedentedly popular “ice bucket challenge” has garnered over $110 million dollars in support for the ALS Foundation. Teens and adults worldwide have participated in this awareness-raising craze in which individuals are dared by friends to pour a full bucket of ice over their heads and post the video online—or donate $100.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is a neurodegenerative disease that preys on muscle function until it is non-existent. The disease, proven to be hereditary in only 5-10% of cases, hasn’t been found to be caused by any consistent environmental or genetic factor and affects two in every 100, 000 people. Only 20% of people live more than five years after diagnosis, and 5,600 people are diagnosed with ALS every year.
The ice bucket challenge first began surfacing online around nine months ago and gained traction as various celebrities took up the cause. Many within the school community have participated in the challenge or have some intimacy with the disease. One such person is Scoot Dimon, assistant headmaster for student life. His father-in-law had ALS and passed away from it in March.
“My wife and I watched her dad slowly lose control of all bodily functions in the last year,” said Dimon. “It starts with your fine body functions, in your fingers and your toes, and you gradually can’t button your shirt or hold a fork. And then it gets really tough to get up from your chair once you’re in a couch, and later on it’s hard to get up and walk at all. Finally, it shuts down your lungs.”
Due to the challenge’s popularity, the ALS Association has been able to reach a much wider audience than it has ever before.
“[The ice bucket challenge] has definitely received a lot more success than I thought it would, particularly at Westminster,” said senior Maya Jones. “I think that one of the reasons why it has gained so much success is because it uses social media as its main force behind getting the word out.”
Fred Scott and Michael Dauterman, chorus director and assistant chorus director respectively, completed the ice bucket challenge over Labor Day weekend during the Westminster Ensemble’s annual retreat to Lake Burton. Scott was challenged by sophomore Owen Downs, and Dauterman, who had been challenged before and declined, chose to participate as well.
“I have a good friend who has ALS,” said Scott. “If I thought that [the ice bucket challenge] would help her get well, I would do it 100 times and then 100 times again. I know that it can’t actually make those with ALS get well, but I think it can help us all to become aware of this disease. If we could come up with enough money to allow doctors to really begin to work seriously and in a focused fashion on this disease, then this all would have been worth something.”
The ice bucket challenge has taken an interesting development as it has spread throughout social media.
“This movement started with one person and kind of developed a groundswell of support,” said Dauterman, “and it just goes to show you that a little idea can go a long way. I don’t think this challenge would exist if Facebook didn’t exist because you couldn’t really share this type of event with this many people and have it be seen by others.”
Dimon shared these sentiments.
“The message is that you can make a difference,” he said. “I mean you’re sitting around, you’re 16, 17, and 18 years old, [and you just start thinking] ‘Well what can I do? What can I do about disease? I can make a difference.’”
Some have criticized the challenge, arguing that for some individuals, the challenge is more about getting attention for themselves than promoting a serious cause.
“I’ll be very honest, I think that [the ice bucket challenge] is becoming less [about] awareness of what ALS is,” said sophomore Omari Matthews. “I just think that it’s sort of taking a turn for the worst in the sense that people aren’t really looking into what ALS is as much as blindly doing the ice bucket challenge because someone challenged them to do it. Intentions aside it’s beneficial, but when you think about it, people aren’t really doing it because they feel some attachment towards ALS.”
Jones disagreed, however.
“It’s a really cool idea, I mean cool in the sense that it’s cold water, but also because you do have to post a video and put it out there,” Jones said. “I think that this works well because even if a person does the ice bucket challenge and doesn’t donate, it’s still one more person who knows about this disease and may potentially do something later to help, or someone watching the video may also be convinced and be willing to donate. So, I think it could work both ways. I think just getting the word out there is such a big part [of this challenge] as well.”