Over the last few weeks, social media has been buzzing with videos of people dumping buckets, tubs and saucepans filled with “ice” water on themselves, and then proceeding to nominate their friends, family or coworkers to do the same. We’ve also seen all kinds of celebrities participating in the challenge, from entertainers like Charlie Sheen, Britney Spears and Shakira, and even politicians like Sarah Palin.
While it’s all fun and games for some, many do forget the foundation upon which this challenge was even initiated: ALS disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. I felt that before doing the challenge myself, I needed to know a little more about what this really was all about:
1. ALS is a neurological disease that causes the nerve cells that control voluntary muscle movement to slowly die. Symptoms include muscle weakness and cramping, slurred speech and twitching. Patients suffering from ALS may find it difficult doing simple tasks, such as buttoning a shirt.
2. Stephen Hawking is perhaps the most well-known patient of ALS; he was diagnosed with the disease at age 21.
3. No cure has yet been found from ALS. Approximately 2 out of every 100,000 people are diagnosed with ALS, a low number compared to other diseases. This results in a lack of funding for a cure.
4. The reason behind as to why ice buckets are used for the challenge are still unclear, although the nature of the challenge (i.e. complete within 24 hours, nominate 3 friends etc.) have been used many times in the past for various Internet challenges, such as the “Neknominations.”
5. People who are nominated for the challenge have the option of either dumping ice water on themselves, or donating USD 100 to the ALSA (ALS Association). With celebrities contributing sums in the thousands, as well as us regular folks whipping out our wallets for the cause, the ALSA has made almost USD 100 million to date. However, only about 30% of what is donated actually goes into the research of ALS. Most of the money is used to cover overheads and wages.
6. While the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is being done in the name of a good cause, the challenge has received all sorts of criticism, such as the wastage of water, and how many opt out of donating by participating in the challenge. But this hasn’t stopped many, with dozens of videos appearing on my newsfeed every day. This is also made people rethink their approach to the challenge. For example, a few environmentalists used water used to wash rice as their water for the challenge, to promote the recycling of waste.
7. There are approximately 300 ALS patients in Hong Kong.
While I am still skeptical about participating in the challenge, I can’t resist watching videos of friends and celebrities participating. There is no doubt that this challenge has spurred a lot of controversy, but it seems to be working in terms of firstly the huge amounts of donations, as well as raising more awareness of the disease.
Lastly, here is Chris Pratt’s alternative approach to the Ice Bucket Challenge:
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