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The 'Ice Bucket Challenge' raises millions for ALS

Nicole Goodkind
Nicole Goodkind

If you’ve logged onto Facebook or Instagram in the past few days you’ve most likely seen videos of your friends and celebrities pouring buckets of ice water over their heads, perhaps you’ve even been tagged in one.

The ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ is a campaign that aims to raise money and awareness for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gherig’s Disease. The challenge involves someone pouring a bucket of ice water over his or her head and then asking certain friends to do the same within 24 hours or to donate money to ALS.

The challenge has caught the attention of celebrities and politicians ranging from Justin Timberlake to President Barack Obama (who decided to stay dry and donate instead).

Still, some have been critical of the campaign saying it’s more of an exercise in vanity than charity. This isn’t so says Bill Thoet, Chairman of the ALS Association’s Board of Trustees.

From July 29 to August 12, the national office of the ALS Association has received $2.3 million in donations, compared to $25,000 in donations over the same period last year. When looking at donations association-wide (including both national and chapter revenue), the ALS Association made $4 million over this two-week period compared to $1.1 million last year.

“I think there are two benefits here: one is awareness, which is really important for a rare disease like this," says Thoet. But the campaign has had the added benefit of boosting fundraising as well. ["This level of in donations] is very unusual for us.”

We’ve seen “viral” charity campaigns in the past: wearing pink to support breast cancer research and awareness, the Livestrong yellow wristband and “Movember” where men grow moustaches in November to support prostate cancer research, but this might be the first campaign to originate online without help from a charity itself.

“We live in a social network world,” says Thoet. “We also live in a world where people do get very excited about causes when their friends are involved with them—I think that this is a great trend for the future.”