A few years ago, my second cousin was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, which is more commonly known by its abbreviation “ALS.” He was projected to live several years with the terminal disease, but passed away months before his time. His dream house, a final project of his, was not completely built at the time of his death. No one saw premature loss coming, or rather, no one wanted to.
Lou Gehrig’s disease was never really widely spoken about – it is a rough battle that is not only practically incurable, but unable to be diagnosed accurately. Even though I had only met my second cousin once, I felt affected by the loss and noticed the toll it took on our family, particularly my dad, who saw my second cousin as one of his childhood pals. Whenever we would mention my second cousin the household would squirm a little, simply because terminal disease is scary and haunting. It can affect you at any moment, and there is no stopping it.
In an attempt to ameliorate our loss, I began writing a novel about befriending someone inflicted with a terminal disease. I will always feel disturbed by ALS and mourn the loss of a man who my father was so close to. I had also been wanting to write a book for quite some time, but everything I wrote seemed superficial and less than spectacular. This was an opportunity to not only write something of merit, but perhaps, to bring light to a disease that can take away the brightest, the funniest, and the most humble people in a matter of months.
Just 20,000 words into my novel, a 10 second video clip appeared on my Facebook feed.
“YOU HAVE 24 HOURS TO GET ICE DUMPED ON YOUR HEAD OR PAY $100 TO THE ALS ASSOCIATION!!! LOL! DO IT!”
These videos spread like a virus across my computer. Every band I had ever liked and every restaurant I had ever been to enlisted staff members, performers, camera people, friends, family, and strangers to dump ice water on their heads. And I can’t say I love it.
People have had their qualms with the ice bucket challenge – it’s too trendy, it’s a chain letter, the foundation funds research that they disagree with, and that people are mindlessly dumping ice on their heads and without learning anything about the disease. I am sure, to an extent, that all of these statements are valid and worth saying. Not all hashtags are effective, and no amount of tweets or Instagram videos is going to educate the masses about ALS or help others grieve untimely death. However, the chain letter effect of these videos has led to a significant increase in donations to the foundation, even though the money would need to exist in a constant stream for years to significantly fund research and produce notable results.
That means the Ice Bucket Challenge would need to happen more than once, to become a tradition, not a fad, for the ALS Association to make strides in ALS treatment, let alone research.
If you want to contribute more, donate more, donate more regularly, or seek to educate, not just to get the attention of others. Is the #ALSIceBucketChallenge a great marketing technique? Sure. Is it improving mass knowledge of ALS or assisting in the grieving process? I am not so convinced.
What do you think of the #ALSIceBucketChallenge? There seem to be mixed reviews. Leave me a comment below with your thoughts!