ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Brings Out the Best and Worst in People
Few things have swept the nation of late like the ice bucket challenge for ALS, or "Lou Gehrig's Disease" research. You literally can't look at social media or television lately without seeing someone new pouring a bucket of ice water over their heads and touting donations to the ALS Association. That's a good thing, right?
Well, yes, it is. Or so you'd think. According to the ALS Association, the ice bucket challenge is responsible for 88.7 million dollars in new donations so far, and the number is still growing every day. Take that in. 88.7 million dollars (and counting) in donations to help research, fight and hopefully one day cure one of the most debilitating and deadly diseases known to man. It's simply staggering. It's inspiring. It's exactly the kind of effort you hope human beings are capable of making, in an increasingly negative and doubtful world we live in.
It all started with a man taking up a challenge that, until he got involved, was little known... a former athlete who now suffers with ALS decided to do something to call people to action. He knows it won't likely help him in the long run in his fight, but it just might help others. So he got others involved and also poured some ice water over his head because it's said to temporarily mimic the actual effects of having ALS. The cold shock momentarily affects your fine motor skills, makes it hard to breath, makes you lose some control over your body. People living with ALS live with that feeling day in and day out, and it only gets worse as the disease progresses.
So this man, Pete Frates, an outfielder for the Boston College baseball team did a simple little stunt and challenged others to do the same. He never expected it to catch on like it has. No one did. No one could have seen that coming. He hoped some people would see it, think it was kind of fun, and hopefully donate a little money to the ALS Association. 88.7 million dollars and thousands upon thousands of ice buckets later, Pete Frates has made a real difference. The kind of difference most of us never make. The kind of difference most of us never dream of. Pete Frates, from his wheelchair, put his money where his mouth is and challenged others to do the same, and in turn he inspired a nation. He inspired much of the world. That's a success story any of us can only dream of achieving.
Naturally though, no good deed goes unpunished. So many people started taking the ice bucket challenge that the naysayers and doubters and... as far as I can see... folks who just have to hate on everything, started coming out of the woodwork.
One writer called it "a middle-class wet-T-shirt contest for armchair clicktivists." One leader of another charity bashed it for taking attention from other charities. Still others called people doing the challenge attention seekers (or used another word) and said they are showing off. Some even call it a waste of water. Yes... 88.7 million dollars for research to help cure a disease, spontaneously and generously donated by people from all walks of life who were moved by the spirit of giving.... is really just a waste of water. That person obviously has never had to deal with ALS in any personal way. None of them have.
Sadly, the only thing more surprising than thousands, maybe even millions of people coming together for a good and common goal of HELPING a situation, is the number of people who choose to look at it as a bad thing. Those who bash people for helping out should probably hope they never need help themselves.
People are welcome to their opinions, that's part of the beauty of America. My hope would be that that kind of negative energy would be re-focused on something like being an activist themselves, rather than shooting down a nation of people coming together for something good. If you don't want to take part in the ice bucket challenge, then don't. I know people who have been challenged and didn't do it, and no one thinks any less of them. It's a simple choice to have fun with something and participate, or let it go and not worry about it. It doesn't make anyone a bad person for not wanting to take part. Actively bashing people who do take part... well, I have my opinion of that and everyone else can have theirs.
I proudly took the ice bucket challenge and gave my donation. I'm not going to apologize to anyone who thinks I was seeking attention or "being an armchair clicktivist." I know why I did it and I'm glad I was in a position to help in a small way. Just as much, I'm glad I had and took the opportunity to help spread the word and help create awareness. That's the thing that will keep donations coming in for this and every other charity. Having water poured on my head wasn't the point. Being on camera and saying 'I'm Brian Myles from KICK-FM" wasn't the point. Being a part of something much bigger than me, much bigger than all of us, and making the efforts of Pete Frates count one more time was the point. Hopefully one day there will be a cure for ALS. On that day a whole lot of people can look in the mirror and feel good. On that day it won't matter what any critics said.
I truly encourage everyone to find some way to help someone and act on it. My father died of cancer and I'm making a donation to the American Cancer Society today. I'm saying it publicly here because if it weren't for Pete Frates and his ice bucket challenge, the truth is I likely wouldn't have thought of doing that today. Daily life gets busy and we forget. Thank you, Pete Frates, for reminding me. Thank you, Pete Frates, for inspiring millions of people to help and even letting them have a little fun in the meantime.
If people are sick of seeing it all over their Facebook feeds, good. That's how much help and attention the ALSA is getting... and like I said in the beginning, that's a good thing. I'll take a news feed full of IBC videos over the endless and stupid political debates that have never changed a single persons mind, or any of the other worthless drivel on social media, any day. Something truly good taking over our attention is a welcome change.
Watch Pete's story...