It seems like every celebrity and their publicist are taking part in this ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Really, it’s gotten to the point where it appears to be less about charity and more about being part of the latest social fad. However, I have no proof that that’s what’s happening, so it would be disgusting to actually accuse anyone of this. Naturally, whatever celebrities do, the rest of the world does also, so almost everyone else has also participated. But what exactly is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? What purpose does it serve, who does it help and is it helping?
Although almost everyone who takes part in the challenge includes a link to the ALS Association, I’d be willing to bet that very few people actually click it to go researching about it… at least, very few in relation to the number of people who watch the video. I, for instance, have seen dozens of celebrities post these videos, but it wasn’t until watching Tom Hiddleston’s video today did I realise that ALS and Lou Gehrig’s disease are one and the same.
ALS (short for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) is a degenerative disease of the nerve cells of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). All motor function (i.e the ability to move) is due to nerve impulses (messages) which are relayed from the central nervous system to the muscles of the body via motor neurons (nerve cells of movement). If these motor neurons are compromised, they are unable to effectively relay their impulses, and motor function is consequently affected. In people suffering with ALS, their motor neurons progressively degenerate, ultimately leading to the death of these cells, which thereby severs the ability to move. With ALS patients, the muscles don’t receive adequate sustenance and therefore atrophy (reduce in size), giving a thinner and weaker physical appearance. The cause of ALS is yet to be fully understood, there is no known cure, and only one FDA-approved drug on the market, which evidently doesn’t offer any drastic improvements. However, there are various forms of therapy which helps those with the disease.
Now that we know what ALS is, let’s move on to the Ice Bucket Challenge. What purpose does it serve? The Ice Bucket Challenge was an initiative of the ALS Association in an attempt to raise awareness and money for the further research of ALS, as well as to assist those living with it. The idea was to challenge someone to withstand a bucket of ice being thrown on them, but if they chickened out, they were to donate $100 to the cause. People have modified the terms a bit so that, if you are able to complete the challenge, you still donate, but only a small fee of $10. Very many celebrities have made it clear that, in addition to completing the challenge, they’ve also donated large sums of money. I don’t think there’s really any link to the Ice Bucket Challenge and ALS, but if I had to go out on a limb to make one, I’d argue that since ice (any form of extreme cold, really) numbs nerve cells, being doused in ice may offer some physical idea as to what the symptoms of ALS are (??). I’m really just pulling this out of my butt as I go along, so don’t judge me.
Many people have criticised this viral challenge as nothing but another example of slacktivism (i.e the appearance of being actively involved in a good cause without any real effort, time or action on your part). There’s also the argument that most people who complete the challenge – I’d assume that celebrities are not included in this argument – don’t even bother making any donation, because the point of the challenge to them is less about benefitting the ALSA and more all about hyping themselves up on social media and showing that they’re a part of the trend like everyone else. The question is… are those arguments valid? While I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever in my mind that those arguments do, indeed, apply to very many people who have taken the Ice Bucket Challenge, figures have shown that the viral success of the challenge has raised a ton of money for ALS. According to the ALS Association, between the period of the initiation of the Ice Bucket Challenge and yesterday, August 19th, they have received $22.9 million dollars in donations! Is this because of the challenge? Well, considering the fact that donations last year for this same time frame was $1.9 million, it stands to reason that it is because of the challenge. They’ve also indicated that these donations, apart from their existing donors, have come from 453, 210 new donors. That’s quite something, isn’t it? So, it seems that the viral effect that Hollywood has had on the Ice Bucket Challenge has really made a difference… even if that difference may not last beyond the summer (because, let’s face it, people are fickle like that, and it’s only a matter of time before a new trend commands our attention).
As great as this cause is – and I readily admit that it’s wonderful – no one seems to be mentioning the fact that with so many people participating in this challenge, and with so many people attempting to come up with bigger and more impressive ways of completing the challenge, this is an awful lot of water being wasted. But it’s for a good cause, you may say. True, it is. But when you think about all the countries that are quite short on good, clean water, it’s hard to deny that this isn’t a bit of a waste. Still, this is a negative spin on a positive situation, so I won’t focus on it. Instead, I’ll congratulate everyone who was able to complete the challenge, commend everyone who donated to the cause, and leave you all with a few GIFs of some of the sexiest male celebs taking the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.