ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Blows Up Social Media

By Pauline Anderson
WebMD Health News

Aug. 22, 2014 -- It seems like every celebrity is getting in on it, from pop stars to athletes to politicians, as well as millions of ordinary people across the social media universe.

They're all pouring a bucket of ice water over their heads and challenging others to do the same, all in the name of raising money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research and awareness.

In case you've been on a deserted island during the last couple of weeks, the deal is this: When challenged by a friend or colleague, you have 24 hours to either donate $100 to the cause or post a video showing yourself dumping a bucket of ice water on your head to get out of donating. Then, in turn, you challenge three others.

Actor Ben Affleck was nominated by Tyler Perry and did the challenge. He also donated the money and then nominated Jimmy Kimmel, Neil Patrick Harris, Matt Damon, and his wife, Jennifer Garner, who dumped the bucket of ice water on his head before he tackled her into the pool. Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor, was nominated by Robert "Iron Man" Downey Jr., and then he challenged fellow Avengers Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Mark Ruffalo (the Hulk), and Chris Evans (Captain America).Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon received several challenges and in turn challenged the New York Jets, who complied as a group.

President George W. Bush, despite saying in the preamble to his video that having a bucket of water dumped on his head is "not presidential," was soon soaked by ice water at the hands of his wife Laura Bush. He went on to challenge his presidential predecessor, Bill Clinton.

Even President Obama is reported to have been challenged by basketball star LeBron James, although he apparently decided to make a donation instead.

Millions in Donations

The ALS Association credits Pete Frates, 29, a former Boston College baseball captain who has lived with ALS since 2012, for launching the viral sensation some 3 weeks ago. Frates and his family have been fundraisers and advocates for the ALS Association Massachusetts Chapter for a number of years.

Unfortunately, Frates' friend, Corey Griffin, 27, who was instrumental in having the ALS challenge go viral, died in a diving accident in Nantucket, MA. The accident occurred early in the morning of Aug. 16, when Griffin dove off a two-story building into the harbor. It happened only hours after he had raised $100,000 for the cause, news reports said.

Despite the widespread dumping of icy buckets, most people are clearly also donating. From July 29 to Aug. 21, donations to the ALS Association, including national and chapter revenue, totaled more than $53 million, which eclipses the $2.2 million raised during the same period last year, according to figures released by the association. The total is changing almost by the minute, though, and is being updated daily on the association's web site. The association received $8.6 million on Tuesday this week alone.

The donations have come not only from existing donors but from more than 1.1 million new donors and counting, the association notes.

What's motivating this outpouring of generosity? Greg Cash, communications director of the ALS Association, chalks it up to "a hot summer, a cold bucket of ice water, a good cause, and people challenging each other," and then passing along the challenge. "I think it's seen as a badge of honor," he says.

Whatever is pushing the button, it's certainly a marketer's dream, Cash tells Medscape Medical News.

Detractors on Facebook have called out the challenge for wasting water or have questioned the motives of participants, suggesting that vanity or so-called "slactivism" (participating in a cause without actually having to do anything) are motivating many of those taking part. Pamela Anderson, the actress now known as an animal rights activist, has reportedly declined the challenge because the ALS Association funds animal research.

Still, someone is clearly putting their money where their ice bucket is. "The ALS Association is extremely grateful for the generosity of these donors, and for the actions of several people who initiated and spread this incredible viral effort," says Barbara J. Newhouse, president and chief executive officer of the ALS Association, in a statement.

The additional funds will help the association "think outside the box" in the fight against this disease, Newhouse says. "We will be able to strategize about efforts in ways that previously would not have been possible, all while we work to fulfill and enhance our existing mission priorities nationwide."

These priorities, she says, include:

  • Providing vital support and care services through a nationwide network of chapters to people with ALS and their families in the form of such things as support groups, medical equipment, and respite grants.
  • Empowering ALS advocates to encourage their elected officials to support and advance issues important to the ALS community and convening the largest annual gathering of people with ALS in Washington, D.C., to raise awareness and support government programs designed to help find a treatment and cure for ALS.

For more information, visit the association's web site.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

SOURCE: Medscape: "ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Blows Up Social Media."

©2014 WebMD, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors