If you’ve been on the Internet in the last month or so, chances are you have seen a friend, family member or public figure perform the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The challenge has been performed by countless athletes, politicians and entertainers alike, all to raise awareness for the devastating disease that is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.
ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that results in rapidly progressive weakness marked by difficulty swallowing, speaking and breathing. Up to 30,000 Americans are currently affected by the disease. The average rate of survival for a patient diagnosed with ALS is 39 months.
ALS is commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the famous New York Yankees first baseman who was diagnosed with the disease on June 19, 1939, his 36th birthday. Gehrig’s retirement speech has lived on famously since then, when on June 21 he proclaimed, “Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
Gehrig’s fight with ALS brought the disease into the limelight. His battle illustrated the horrific effects of the fatal disease. Sadly, however, little progress in finding a cure for ALS has been made since then.
Pete Frates, 29, is a former captain of the Boston College baseball team. In 2012, Frates was diagnosed with ALS, and has experienced the debilitating effects of the disease in recent years, but he has certainly left his mark.
Frates has served as the inspiration behind the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which, as of Aug. 26, has raised over $88.5 million in mere weeks. In the same period last year, the organization raised $2.6 million.
The goal of the project is to raise awareness for the disease and to find a cure for ALS. Those who are challenged have 24 hours to pour a bucket of ice water on their head. Upon completion of the challenge, that individual can nominate several additional people to partake in the challenge. If they do not complete the challenge within the allotted 24 hours, they are expected to make a charitable donation.
The challenge has spread nationwide to entertainment figures such as Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Oprah Winfrey; sports superstars such as Michael Jordan; and politicians such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and President Barack Obama, though he decided to only donate.
According to The New York Times, Facebook users have shared more than 1.2 million videos between June 1 and Aug. 13. The challenge has resulted in more than 700,000 new donors to the cause.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has shown the power of social media. Applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Vine and Instagram have done a great job of catapulting this message, ensuring that it stays relevant and important. It has shown the power of what just one individual can do and the far-reaching effects that it can have.
However, the challenge has fallen under criticism for what critics are calling “slacktivism.”
Critics contend that social media users are partaking in the challenge for extraneous reasons that are not related to finding a cure for ALS.
Now it’s time to change that. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has brought the disease into the public spotlight, but now it is time to make an even greater difference. As members of the Lehigh community, it is important to challenge these critics by getting involved, learning about the cause and donating.
There is no obligation to donate large sums of money, and that is fine. What makes this challenge so great is the assembly of collective action. Contribute what you can, no matter how large or small a donation. Any contribution can make a difference, and it takes mere moments to do so.
This challenge is not just about spreading the cause and getting the word out, but also donating to find a cure for this disease. Come together as a family, a group of friends, a team or a Greek organization, and make a donation. These are the actions that will make a difference and result in widespread acknowledgement for the disease and monetary support that will hopefully lead to a cure.
If you have already participated in the challenge and have not donated, it is not too late to do so. If you end up partaking in the challenge, make it known that you have donated and encourage those who you nominate to donate as well.
For more information on Pete Frates or the ALS disease go to petefrates.com or als.org.