Editorial: Ice Bucket Challenge - Will the donations last when the ‘likes’ stop?

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The DePauw's editorial board takes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
after D3TV nominated the publication.
From left, Managing Editor Nicole DeCriscio,
Editor-in-Chief, Leann Burke and
Chief Copy Editor, Kevin Killeen.
ERIN O'BRIEN / THE DEPAUW

More than likely, we’ve all seen videos on Facebook of people dumping a bucket of ice water over their heads. Before midsummer 2014, we would have laughed at these people and their strange new way of cooling off. Now we call it the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, attacks people’s ability to control their muscles. Currently, ALS can be treated, but it cannot be cured. This is where the Ice Bucket Challenge enters.

Pete Frates, an ALS patient and former baseball star, began the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise funds for the ALS Association (ALSA) and its search for a cure. Since the challenge went viral, the ALSA has gained 1.9 million new donors and raised $88.5 million dollars, $85.9 million more they raised during the same period last year.

The ALSA estimates that 30,000 Americans suffer from ALS. Our total population is 319 million, according to the Census Bureau. With numbers like that, this editorial board has to ask why the Ice Bucket Challenge was able to galvanize such a huge response for a disease that affects less than .5 percent of our population.

We think it’s because the Ice Bucket Challenge turns caring about ALS into a game. Participants get to do something abnormal, post it to Facebook and challenge their friends. As the challenge gained popularity, people raced to challenge others.

Turning worthy causes into games to raise money is nothing foreign to DePauw University’s community. Think about the greek community’s fundraising events. Almost every one is centered around a competition of some kind. Clearly, asking others to participate in a competition is an effective way to raise money.

Everyone knows it’s important to help others, and we see people daily trying to do so in small ways. If people can help each other on a small scale without it feeling like a game, it shouldn’t take one to spark a large-scale reaction to a cause that could save lives and lessen suffering.

Although this editorial board is delighted to see so much money and effort put towards a good cause, we find it troubling that it takes some sort of game to get people actively engaged with a cause. We’d hope that in the future those 1.9 million new donors will continue to care and support humanitarian causes without the incentive of a couple Facebook likes.

Kevin Killeen, chief copy editor, did not contribute to this editorial.