Last week while at a restaurant in Downtown Riverside, I overheard a conversation between a couple and their server about the Ice Bucket Challenge that led to a brief conversation about ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. I suspect it was similar to millions of other conversations that have taken place over the past month, since the challenge went viral and became the highest trending hash tag in social media for several weeks. It was one of those rare spontaneous social occurrences that captured the attention of the masses while raising money and awareness for a deserving cause. For the first time since it was identified as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 1869 by a French neurologist and brought to national attention when Lou Gehrig announced his retirement from baseball due to his ALS diagnosis in 1939 has the disease become a topic, and charity of interest to donors. The Ice Bucket Challenge has raised almost $80 million dollars in one month for the ALS Association, during that same month last year giving totaled $2.5 million. In fact, last fiscal year the funds donated to the ALS Association totaled $24 million, almost a quarter of what has been raised through a campaign that wasn’t even started by the organization.
But, as with all popular trends, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has its detractors. And that’s unfortunate. Some critics site our current drought as a reason not to participate in the challenge and have labeled the practice water wasting. Some have accused the “dump or donate” dare of being a practice that uses guilt as a motivator and suffering as a penalty. While other haters consider it Slacktivism, a millennial malady of action through inaction. Those critics see the posting and sharing of what has become the “ritual ice water dump” as a narcissistic self-indulgent minimal effort instead of an opportunity to inspire, educate, and share awareness through social media. Raising $80 million dollars that can now be used to research cures for the disease as well as other motor neuron disorders, provide care for patients, and advocate for public policies that help patients and their families doesn’t sound like slacking to me.
I believe the Ice Bucket Challenge will change the way we think about how we can change the world. Social Entrepreneur Dan Pallotta in a TED Talk in Long Beach last year on charity and social innovation said that the non-profit sector is hampered from growth because of its reluctance to be creative or bold which kills innovation in fundraising. Pallotta believes that people are innately charitable and are “yearning to measure the full distance of their potential in the causes they care about.” While it would be difficult to repeat the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge, its success does give a glimpse at what we are capable of when inspired and engaged.
Last week I challenged you to participate in the challenge. Many of you responded in the affirmative and either offered to make a donation to the MDA OC Inland Empire Chapter or dump a bucket of ice water on your head to promote awareness, or both. Banning Mayor Debbie Franklin, Riverside International Relations Chair Jalani Bakari, Dr. Tom Pierce, Benoit and Kathy Malphettes are all making donations, while others of our readers including the Kenley Konnection, Steve Lambert, Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, and Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey accepted the challenge, doused themselves with ice water (or had someone else do the icy deed), and also made donations. Rialto Mayor Deborah Robertson, Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren, Supervisor Janice Rutherford, and School Board Trustees Ben Johnson, Brent Lee, and Tom Hunt will all be going under the bucket for ALS. And California Charter Schools Association Executive Director Gary Borden promised to dump a bucket of ice on behalf of all the charter school students in California, especially those who attend the school we helped design, Hardy Brown College Prep in San Bernardino. Gary, I’ll be in Sacramento this week, I can help you if you need someone to add the ice and pour the water.
For those of you whose conscience prevents you from participating, or even forces you to voice your displeasure with the Ice Bucket Campaign, I do hope that your “inaction” in this campaign is just a reflection of your “action” in other areas of charitable giving.