Unless you’ve just returned from a third world country, you most likely could not have avoided the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that is spreading like wildfire through social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. What an amazing phenomenon it has become! To date, it has generated over $53 million dollars and brought in 1.1 million new donors to the ALS Association.
This isn’t the first time a challenge has proliferated through social connections and networks. So why is this one is so wildly successful? The development side of me wants to credit the power of the ALS Association, the group committed to fighting Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) through their mission:
Leading the fight to treat and cure ALS through global research and nationwide advocacy while also empowering people with Lou Gehrig's disease and their families to live fuller lives by providing them with compassionate care and support.
The mother in me is just pleased to see a positive spin out of the ridiculous, meaningless, and potentially dangerous challenges from the recent past (think Cinnamon Challenge). Perhaps the real difference here is that the challenge is meant to make a difference.
So who actually started the Ice Bucket Challenge? That’s not entirely clear. A few different people are named, but another theory suggests that it’s an evolution of other cold-water type challenges like the Polar Bear Plunge, where people from the northern US and Canada leave their common sense behind and jump into ice-cold bodies of water in winter. In Minnesota, our Special Olympics organization is shivering with appreciation.
In my opinion, anyone who chooses to accept a challenge like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge or the Polar Bear Plunge is the person who started it. They are the one choosing to pass it along to their network of people, and they are responsible for the resulting ripples. And the real challenge for the ALS Association will be on continuing relationships with as many of those new donors as possible. Now that’s a challenge!