ALS Ice Bucket Challenge — you’re doing it wrong

Sarah Schisla, Scot Scoop Editor-in-Chief

Since when is it considered charitable to dump freezing water on yourself to avoid donating to a noble cause?

The popular Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Ice Bucket Challenge asks participants to either donate $100 to the ALS Association or pour a bucket of ice water on themselves and nominate three additional people. The challenge specifies that those who choose the ice bucket should also donate $10, but this detail, along with any mention of ALS, is often omitted from the participants’ videos.

Castro's hockey team puts a Lake Tahoe spin on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to conserve water.
Castro’s hockey team puts a Lake Tahoe spin on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to conserve water. Photo courtesy of Amanda Blanc.

Sophomore Alyssa Arredondo said, “It’s unfortunate that some people are doing the challenge without contributing to the cause and are unaware that they are contributing to a statewide drought instead.”

Many have found ways to participate in the challenge without wasting water, such as filling their buckets with shower water that would otherwise go down the drain before their shower heats up. Some also reuse the water after the challenge to water their garden.

Math teacher Amber Mills, who participated in the challenge, said, “I encourage people to use water that would have been wasted otherwise. I understand where people are coming from on the drought issue, but people waste water so often. It’s just a drop in the bucket. At least this has a purpose.”

Sophomore Colleen Castro said, “The goal is to raise awareness for ALS, which in turn has led to [millions] of dollars being donated in the past couple of weeks.”

As of Aug. 27, the challenge had raised over $94.3 million for the cause with over 2 million new donors contributing. This is a huge increase over the $2.6 million raised over the same time period last year.

Celebrities including Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, and former President George W. Bush have helped to advance the phenomenon. Even President Barack Obama participated by donating.

While most know what the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is, not many are as knowledgeable about ALS.

ALS, often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, damages the motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord that are responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement. In its final stages, this neurodegenerative disease can lead to full-body paralysis.

According to the ALS Association, around 30,000 Americans are currently affected by ALS, and over 5,600 more are diagnosed each year.

Popular articles such as TIME’s “We need to do better than the Ice Bucket Challenge” and the Chicago Tribune’s “Say ‘No!’ to the Ice Bucket Challenge” denounce the challenge. TIME’s Jacob Davidson calls the challenge “inherently offensive to those touched by ALS,” saying that it “seems to be suggesting that being cold, wet, and uncomfortable is preferable to fighting ALS.”

Carlmont graduate Andrew Sohrabi said, “[Doing the challenge without donating] can still spread awareness, but it needs to be supplemented with an explanation of ALS [or] a link to donate to the ALS Association.”

Castro said, “Even if you can’t donate but participate in the challenge, you are raising awareness for ALS, and by nominating three people, you continue the challenge. Maybe those people will be able to donate. The staggering amount of donations that the ALS Association is receiving now is so great that if people aren’t taking it seriously, it honestly isn’t that big of a problem.”

The team braces themselves for the challenge.
The team braces themselves for the challenge. Photo courtesy of Amanda Blanc.
This map taken from illustrates California's severe drought.
This map from illustrates California’s severe drought.