ALS Association brings many together to make a difference

Nominate a friend, stimulate global awareness and provide a monetary donation — all this for a good cause and some fun? Sounds like a great idea. For most.

Perhaps the question of greater importance is whether the positive outcomes of the ice bucket challenge can outweigh the negative. For this cause, the end does justify the means. Bringing people together through philanthropic deeds is always a notable feat.

Log on to your social media feeds and chances are, there’ll be an influx of videos featuring friends partaking in the “ice bucket challenge.” The challenge is directly affiliated with the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association (ALSA), a nonprofit organization. It hopes to change the way society views ALS, a neurodegenerative disease that progressively debilitates the body’s motor functions, by fostering communal awareness, guidance and research. Once nominated for the challenge, an individual has 24 hours to either pour a bucket of ice water over his or her head or donate $100 to the ALSA.

Critics, however, question the impact that the challenge really makes. Alexandra Petri, a blogger for the Washington Post, titled her most recent article, “Against awareness — I nominate you to NOT take the ALS challenge.” In the article she comically makes light of the contrast between raising awareness and making a tangible difference.  The article, however, fails to acknowledge the financial contributions that significantly aid the association in achieving its various goals including spreading the word, reaching core values and funding further research. Since the challenge began in mid-July, more than $70.2 million have been raised to foster global research and assistance for those affected with the incurable disease. This is a staggering increase in comparison to monetary values received from contributors during the same time frame last year.

In a Slate article titled “Take the ‘No Ice Bucket’ Challenge” Will Oremus suggests that people should not need to participate in the ice bucket challenge but donate monetarily in private. Without the attention placed by social media, however, many would never have done the challenge at all. Though the concept and mechanics of accomplishing the deed might be misconstrued, it is important to note that a large part of the community is coming together to participate for a good cause. Using social media as a tool for good opens the doors for future generations to use their available resources for positive causes, generating a communal desire and interest to make viable change. Giving individuals the chance to partake in public acts of kindness allows others to mirror their actions. Individuals have come together to work for one cause.

Though the challenge might be labeled as a fad, its results in a short period of time reveal something unique about this generation — a willingness and desire to support others in need. It’s true that some participants don’t know exactly what ALS stands for, but their choice to fight a common enemy is something of value.

As a society, it is important to realize that generational changes are imperfect. Many critics of the challenge have pointed at the idleness of youth for not donating to the challenge and, instead, choosing to dump water over their heads. But that’s the premise of the challenge itself — to promote a worthy cause, society must stand together.


Sarah Dhanaphatana is a sophomore majoring in political science. “Point/Counterpoint” runs Tuesdays.