Reality Bites by James A. Norton

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Early on last week, and a couple of times since, I had a very candid conversation about my problems with the “ice bucket challenge” that was
destined to become the Facebook/internet sensation that it has. It started with simply stating that I had no interest in it at all. Of course this sparked a debate about why I wouldn’t want to help – but – by the time I was done stating my concerns, there was little left to argue.

There’s a fine line between raising awareness and raising money – I would imagine that the ALS Association and other worthy related organizations would much rather have either just the money or ideally a combination of both. My particular problem with the “ice bucket challenge” is that people were not taking the time to even explain the original purpose of it – I personally saw at least 3 dozen videos of people merely nominating people to take the challenge, with no explanation whatsoever and definitely with no donation tie-in.

What kind of sense does it make to pour a bucket of ice water over your head and not just donate money to begin with? The biggest flaw in this whole movement is that people were posting these videos and not specifically explaining the donation aspect (or the original version of it) – that if they did the “challenge” they needed to donate $20 to the ALS Association and if they didn’t do it, then they needed to donate $100.

That would have been simple and effective – it would have raised awareness and raised money.

That isn’t exactly what was happening, though. People were posting the videos partly because they felt as though if they didn’t, they’d look like assholes and partly because they wanted others to share in their misery. Somewhere the potential to raise a vast amount of money got lost on vanity.

If you don’t know what ALS is (otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease), it’s a nasty disease of the nerve cells in both the brain and the spinal chord – which over time weakens your ability to voluntarily control your muscles, killing you. A very nasty way to die, and if you ever knew someone who succumbed to the disease, then you know how painful it is for the victims and their families.

For the record, I commend Pete Frates for starting the challenge. Pete is 29 years old, from Beverly and is a former collegiate athlete who suffers from ALS. His tireless efforts to raise awareness (which even in its flawed current state will certainly raise money, I will admit) and fight the disease are beyond reproach – this column isn’t meant to criticize anyone involved with this movement – it is meant to help raise awareness even further by advocating education about the disease and the different ways you can help raise money, and awareness, at the same time.

So rather than increase Facebook traffic and weigh down the data share plans of the cellular world, in lieu of the several nominations I had to take the “challenge” – I instead went online to webma.alsa.org and hit the red “Donate” button – and did my thing. I didn’t have to pour ice water on my head, the ALS Association got some much needed money and I raised awareness by writing this column.

Everyone wins, except those who are suffering from this dreaded disease. Please donate today.

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