When the Ice Bucket Challenge to benefit ALS hit in mid-August, it hit hard. Everyone from NASCAR stars, to pop singers, to politicians, to your mother was lining up to pour a bucket of ice water over his or her head, make a donation, and then call out a couple of friends to do the same. The true challenge offered two choices — donate $100, or douse yourself and donate $10. On camera, of course. Because, you know, “pix or it didn’t happen.” Despite the ubiquity of the campaign, many folks dismissed it as frivolous because some people were just doing the ice thing and forgoing the donation part. That’s probably true. And of course, while awareness is nice, awareness plus money is nicer.
But it’s short-sighted to underestimate the power of “just” raising awareness because, honestly, people can’t donate to something they don’t even know exists. They can’t commit themselves — and their money — to solving a problem if they aren’t aware that there is a problem or if they don’t know that there are organizations that also are committed to solving it.
More people than ever are talking about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. And if you want to talk numbers: Between July 29 and Sept. 1, the ALS Association received more than $100 million in donations — compared to $2.1 million during the same time period last year. That’s pretty damn far from frivolous. In fact, it’s phenomenal. And it’s unheard of.
The Ice Bucket Challenge came out of nowhere. It wasn’t part of a carefully planned ALS Association campaign; it wasn’t part of the organization at all. It apparently originated with a group of golfers who dared each other to take the chilly challenge for the charity of their choice. One chose ALS, and it just stuck.