Why I Hated Your Ice Bucket Challenge and Why I’m Sorry

Three weeks ago everything was normal. My timeline was filled with the typical status updates – the political ones, the passive aggressive ones, the “your” instead of “you’re” ones, and the ones where I learn about a friend’s period flow or how much sex she had the night before. The photos were the same, too. There were pictures of the 4 million 5-K races my friends ran this summer, and pictures of the Dixie Cheese half-and-half they ate afterwards. The videos were of the typical variety, as well – babies dancing, cats cuddling, and people busting out car windows to rescue 16-year-old kids who were sitting in the A/C listening to their iPods while mom was pre-paying for gasoline 7 feet away. Almost overnight everything changed. I began seeing video after video of people dumping buckets of ice water over their heads. In fact, my timeline didn’t contain videos of anything other than people dumping buckets of ice water over their heads. They said it was to raise awareness for ALS or Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Still, each time I scrolled by one, I rolled my eyes.

But then something happened.

After days of eye-rolling I happen upon a news story. The “Ice Bucket Challenge” was working. People were actually writing checks. The ALS Association was raising money to help fund research efforts for this particularly cruel disease.

Over the last three weeks $22.9 million has poured into the ALS Association, compared to $1.9 million donated during the same three week period last year. That number is not only astounding to me, but absolutely heart wrenching. It’s heart wrenching because I was the cynic, rolling my eyes. I didn’t believe the people who were taking the “challenge” were actually writing checks, too. I assumed these folks were simply jumping on a bandwagon, posting the video, and leaving it at that. And I was wrong.

Today, I can’t count the number of ice bucket challenge videos I’ve now watched. I refuse to just scroll by them anymore. I watch each and every one. But weeks after the birth of the challenge, my timeline is still inundated with the videos and so is yours. And people are growing weary and are starting to roll their eyes, much like I did.

I read the status updates and see the videos insisting they stop. And the one’s making fun. But those don’t bother me as much as the condescending ones that insist we “just donate money” and stop with the ice water, like this one.

You see, these are the people who don’t get it. Last year, between July 29 and August 19, there were no buckets of ice, no challenges, and no Facebook timelines drowning in videos. And last year the ALS Association raised $1.9 million; a paltry $1.9 million.

The ice water is the awareness part. If the buckets weren’t being filled and the participants weren’t getting wet, and the videos weren’t being posted, the ALS Association would have never received $22.9 million in donations in the last three weeks.

Is the Ice Bucket Challenge gimmicky?
Is it working?
If people stopped pouring buckets of ice water over their heads tomorrow would the donations stop pouring in?

So stop with the patronizing and pretentious videos and status updates saying “just donate,” because awareness doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t just happen. People make it happen. I make it happen and you make it happen. Buckets of ice and a few good friends who don’t mind the taunting make it happen. If you don’t like the videos, don’t watch them. If you don’t care to take the challenge, then don’t. If you’d like to “just donate,” then go right ahead. But don’t mind the rest of us who are still dumping buckets of ice over our heads to make sure our friends know how important it is to donate, too.

And if you’re still rolling your eyes, I’ll leave you with this.


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