Editorial: The real (ice bucket) challenge

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Friday, August 29, 2014

THE popular ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has reached our shores and, like in other places that it has invaded, has attracted believers as well as critics. Some Cebu personalities have done the ritual, which involves donating $100 to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association, pouring a bucket of ice over the head and challenging the next takers.

ALS, often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” (for the baseball Hall of Famer who died of the disease), is a progressive degenerative illness that affects the nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. It has no cure or treatment, but research is being done for the purpose.

The ice bucket challenge was supposedly started in Florida in July this year by golfer Charles Kennedy, who was told by a friend that if he poured ice over his head he (the friend) would donate to the charity of Kennedy’s choice. Kennedy has a cousin who is afflicted with ALS so he chose to donate to the ALS Association.


The “magic” in the ice bucket challenge as an awareness and fund raising campaign can be found in the nature of the challenge and the platform it is using.

The practice of accepting the challenge and then challenging other people afterwards borrows heavily from the success of social networking. And it spread quickly because of the internet, more so when the rich and the famous jumped into the bandwagon. From July to today, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has raised almost $100 million.

The problem is that for many people, the ice bucket challenge is the focus instead of the intention, which is to donate money for charity. This is the basis of the growing criticism of the campaign. Critics are even sparking a discussion on what “donation” means and how it is done.

But while the criticisms are good if intended as mere reminder, these should not be used to shoot down a successful fund drive. To say that, for example, tuberculosis should be given more attention than ALS because it kills more people is odious because it pits one illness with another.

The popularity of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge will eventually die down, although it should already have served its purpose when that happens. In the meantime, there are lessons to be learned there on how to conduct a successful awareness and fund raising campaign for other worthwhile concerns.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 30, 2014.


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