How ice water can save lives or drown a campaign

Jenny Oetzell shares her views on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and questions the motives behind some of its participants.


| Aaron Fooks/THE CHIMES

Jenny Oetzell, Writer

You all have seen it, you may have been challenged to do it, or maybe you have participated in it. The ALS ice bucket challenge has quickly grown in popularity over Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Since the challenge went viral in August, the ice bucket challenge raised over $94 million for the progressive neurodegenerative disease called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The ice bucket challenge can be an amazing way to raise awareness for a great cause. But, depending on the way the challenge is performed, those participating can appear egotistical or seem to use the challenge to gain popularity.

The majority of ALS ice bucket challenge videos that I have seen on my Facebook news feed have been executed in a fairly tasteful manner. The person challenged will mention that they donated money to ALS, challenge three other people to do the same, and then proceed to dump freezing cold water over their head.

When done right, this campaign can help teach the public about the cause. People who become familiar with this disease continue to raise money by seeing its name on social media. So the tangible benefits of this campaign grow as people choose to donate. In fact, according to the ALS Association’s website, contributions have skyrocketed since last year due to an increase in awareness caused by the popularity of the ice bucket challenge. If nothing else, those participating in the challenge appear to enjoy dousing themselves with ice water.


Although this campaign benefits the ALS association, many who participate do not seem to understand the purpose of raising awareness. Some participants take on the challenge so they do not have to donate money. Some forget to mention that the challenge is for ALS in their video submissions.

The worst example that I have come across starts with the participants introducing their ASL, American Sign Language, ice bucket challenge. Needless to say, I highly doubt that those people donated to the organization. Young girls and guys alike use the ice bucket challenge as an opportunity show off their new bikini or hot six pack. This kind of selfish attention-seeking behavior hurts the credibility of the campaign and causes me to question my willingness to support it. The challenge should create awareness and support for those suffering from the disease, not showcase those participating in the challenge.

ALS is a serious disease. If I personally knew someone that was affected by ALS, the ignorance that some people have shown would seem disrespectful. I question how the next awareness campaign will function when the ice bucket challenge has run its course. Overall, I believe the bucket challenge was successful in its goal of raising money to help ALS. I just wish everyone participating had the correct motivations. From this movement, I learned what it looks like to selflessly support a cause and how easily it can turn into a selfish cry for attention.

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