Everything you need to know about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Photo by Alex Shaw | The Collegian The K-State Mens Basketball Team reacts to being drenched for the ALS ice bucket challenge at the begining of the year pep rally on August 24th in Bill Snyder Family Stadium

It’s hard to miss the frenzy that is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Videos of people, from friends and family to former presidents and movie stars, pouring buckets of ice-cold water over themselves currently dominate social media.

The trend is an effort to raise awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and money for the ALS Association, an organization that promotes and funds research for the disease. The association also financially supports those afflicted the disease.

The premise of this viral fundraising campaign is simple. Film yourself as a bucket of ice cold water is poured on you, and nominate multiple people to do the same. Those nominated have 24 hours to either accept the nomination and make a similar video of their own, or donate money to ALSA. Even K-State football head coach Bill Snyder embraced the cause on film, as he poured a cooler of ice water on defensive end Ryan Mueller.

“I thought it was fun and for a worthy cause,” said Grant Harper, junior in kinesiology, who accepted the challenge last week. “I felt like it was a good way of promoting a cause that needs attention. ALS is not something that’s on most people’s radar, but it is something that I feel people need to be aware of.”

Lou Gehrig’s Disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerves of the brain and spinal cord. About 30,000 Americans have the disease at any given time, according to ALSA’s website, and there is currently no cure. Progressive degeneration of the neurons that send impulses from the brain to the various muscles of the body via the spinal cord causes the neurons to die. When the neurons in one part of the body die, the ability of the brain to exert control over that part is lost, leading to paralysis. In the later stages of ALS, patients are known to experience complete paralysis and ultimately, death.

Success and humble beginnings

Since July, the ALS ice bucket challenge has inspired more than 2 million videos and raised more than $79 million in donations to the ALSA. ALSA raised about $19 million in revenue in 2013, less than one-third of what it raised this month alone.

With such success, it’s easy to forget that the Ice Bucket Challenge started with no affiliation to ALS. According to a Wall Street Journal article titled, “How the Ice Bucket Challenge Got Its Start,” the challenge was making the rounds on the Internet several weeks before it was first connected to ALS. In late July, the challenge was popularized by Pete Frates, a former Boston College baseball player who was diagnosed with ALS in March 2012. Due to ALS, Frates the lost the ability to talk, as well as the use of his arms and legs.

He decided to use the challenge as an opportunity to raise awareness and funding towards a cure for the disease. Frates nominated himself for the challenge, but instead of pouring ice-cold water over himself, he posted a video of himself bouncing his head to Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby.” His video and challenge went viral in Boston when friends and former teammates took the challenge, kicking off the viral trend that soon went nationwide. Frates did take the Ice Bucket Challenge again on the Aug. 14, along with members of the Boston Red Sox.


As with any trend on social media, the Ice Bucket Challenge does have its share of criticism. Much of it is based on the notion that the challenge videos serve as a convenient out for people who do not want to donate to charity. In an article published in Slate magazine titled, “Take the ‘No Ice Bucket’ challenge,” author Will Oremus encouraged readers to skip the video and just donate to charity instead.

Maria Church, sophomore in food science and industry, accepted the challenge last week and said she also donated a sum of money to ALSA.

“I did the video because I was challenged and it looked fun,” Church said. “ALS is such a devastating disease and the research is really moving forward, so $10 didn’t sound like too much. Basically, I chose to spend the money I would have used to buy something like pizza and ice cream on something worthy.”

Church said she saw a number of videos on her social media feed, some from ALS patients themselves, and it inspired her to research and learn more about ALS, which contributed to her desire to donate. According to Charity Navigator, an organization that evaluates nonprofit organizations based on financial health, accountability and transparency, ALSA was awarded its highest ranking of four stars in the 2013 fiscal year.

What’s next for ALSA?

In an Aug. 16 open letter on the ALSA website, Barbara Newhouse, the association’s president and CEO, outlined the plans for future research towards finding a cure for the disease. In the letter, she outlined priorities including increased funding towards active projects as well as funding new research projects. A significant portion of the proceeds will go towards funding support groups and medical care for people diagnosed with ALS. ALSA will also use the funds to promote awareness for the ALS challenge among elected officials and government programs.

The challenge’s success marks a step in a positive direction that has been largely unknown, thanks largely due to millions of people coming together for a good cause.