Amy Donaldson: Critics of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge need to chill

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 20 2014 2:35 p.m. MDT

Rob Riggle, Horatio Sanz, Steve Higgins, The Roots, & Jimmy Fallon Take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The first time I saw the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was when a friend posted a clip of Jimmy Fallon dousing himself during his show.

I loved it so much I looked up the Justin Timberlake and Gov. Chris Christie videos to see how they’d challenged Fallon to dump a bucket of ice water over his head to raise awareness about and funding for the ALS Association.

I thought it was entertaining.

But after I started seeing dozens of new videos every day featuring everyone from politicians to professional athletes taking — and passing along — the challenge, I decided it was genius.

I love the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

I love watching the videos. I love reading the stories. And I loved taking my turn accepting and passing along the challenge to think about those who suffer from the horrific, progressive neurodegenerative disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

What I noticed just recently, however, is that not everyone loves the challenge.

While some people are just tired of it, others actually argue in columns and blogs that it’s not worth supporting.

One woman who hated the idea said she didn’t understand why people who wanted to support the ALS Association didn’t just donate. Why did they need to act silly? Why did they need to brag about caring?

Having just participated in the challenge on Friday (thanks to BYU beat writer Jeff Call), I decided to explain why it’s worth supporting the challenge (with video proof) and the cause.

First, raising money is hard. The beauty of the Ice Bucket Challenge is that it’s ridiculously easy.

While fundraising has to be on the list of Top 10 things to avoid, doing something for someone else gives us the kind of joy that is uplifting and restorative. It’s part of the reason we buy and sell all kinds of stuff we really don’t need so that someone else’s children can experience a band trip or basketball tournament.

We swim, bike and run hundreds of miles because the money we raise doing so might help researchers rid the world of diseases that terrorize us.

Like it or not, money is how diseases are cured. It’s how medications are developed. It’s how lives are improved.

So as dreadful as fundraising is, most of us have extensive experience with it.

It is fascinating to me that the ease of this fundraiser is what critics don’t like. I’m not saying those of us who dump cold water over our heads deserve anything for our efforts. But don’t hate us for having some fun while trying to support those who are suffering.

Some critics said that many of the videos were more about self-promotion than they were about ALS awareness. They pointed out that some people failed to even mention the association for which they are trying to raise money.

I’ve seen a few of those, and frankly, I believe that even if they’re flawed, they support what the challenge has become — a viral sensation.

Consider that the ALS Association said it received more than $13 million since July 29 as compared with $1.7 million during the same period last year. An article in the New York Times said that more than 1.2 million people shared videos on Facebook from June 1 to Aug. 13, while it’s been mentioned more than 2.2 million times on Twitter.

And whether you see it as a goofy sensation, a craze or a fad, you should understand it was actually instigated by a 29-year-old Boston man, who was diagnosed with ALS at 27.

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