What is this Ice Bucket Challenge all about?

What is this Ice Bucket Challenge all about?

Recently, I was challenged to take part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. You may have seen some celebrities around the world taking part, pouring buckets of ice over their heads, and nominating other people to do the same. And THEN remembering to remind people to donate.

But what is the ice bucket challenge all about? What is it in aid of? And why ice? Why not a running challenge, or a laying in the warm sun drinking mojitos challenge?

ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, but is usually referred to as ‘Lou Gehrig’s Disease’, named after a famous American baseball star from the 1930’s, who famously, and publicly, suffered from this debilitating condition.

The scientific term derives from the Greek language, A-MYO-TROPHIC- A means ‘no, MYO refers to ‘muscle, and TROPHIC means ‘nourishment- no muscle nourishment.

(source: http://www.alsa.org/about-als/what-is-als.html)

So, in layman’s terms, motor neurons, which stretch throughout the body, progressively degenerate. The brain loses the ability to consciously control muscles, which can lead to an inability to speak, to breathe or swallow, and loss of movement- paralysis.

The cause of this disease is not known, however research continues and understanding is increasing. There are new drug regimens to improve the quality and length of life; and there are therapies, including physical therapies, which are enabling sufferers to have a more independent lifestyle.

So, why an ice bucket challenge? The challenge itself grew from cold water challenges performed throughout the US. What started as a challenge where cold water was dumped onto people and then they would donate to a charity of choice, to a – donate OR you will get cold water, through to what is now the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

The origins of this phase of the challenge are a bit mysterious, but it seems to be attributed to increased media attention on June 14th of this year, when people on the Morning Drive program, on the Golf Channel, performed an on-air ice bucket challenge. Famous golfers took up the challenge on the same day, and then nominated their friends. And so it grew.

But why ice? The sudden numbing cold, and an inability to move momentarily because of the cold, is said to simulate what it may be like to have ALS. So by understanding just a little bit of what it is like, you empathise with the true sufferers, donate, and then nominate.

According to the ALS foundation in the states, up to August 21st of this year, they had received over $41 million in donations, thanks to the Ice Bucket Challenge.

There has been some backlash to the viral social media phenomena. Why are we pouring water over our heads, when there is a drought in California, when there is a scarcity of drinking water in Africa? Why don’t people simply donate to a charity rather than pull these stunts to do so?


Opinion is divided, naturally, but one strong opinion seems to be, with all the different charities out there to donate to, how can one charity, how can one disease which does not have a large media or community profile, such as cancer and heart disease, say, get attention to their cause? You have to admit, the media attention to these stunts, the celebrities and politicians, the humours ice bucket fails which are posted all over the internet, is certainly bringing attention to this disease. So, you could think of it as a very successful, viral, marketing campaign.

Even so, it is still a worthy cause. Any money raised for scientific and medical research can only be a good thing. I am riding a bike for hundreds of kilometres to raise money to help cure cancer. Similarly every year people shave their heads for cancer. Community events, fun events, to raise money for conditions, illnesses and sickness which end people’s live far too often and far too early.

And so, we come to it…. I, Simon Fox, have been nominated for the Ice Bucket Challenge! YES! And this means I get to nominate and challenge other people whom I know! Watch the video by clicking below, and see if I nominated YOU!