Don't rain on my bucket

“No good deed goes unpunished,” so the old saying goes, and the newest example of that is the ice-bucket challenge for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

Marion County has its fair share of folks who have been swept up in the social media craze that’s raised more than $70 million for the ALS Association, an organization that provides services and funds research. By comparison, the association raised $2 million during the same time last year.

It seems most people missed the point of the original challenge — to donate OR to be soaked by a bucket of ice water. As the fundraising total suggests, people who’ve been doused also have given.

In the wake of the massive flood of donations flowing from the challenge, naysayers have started bobbing to the surface.

“What does dumping ice water have to do with ALS? It’s stupid.”

“People should give purely out of compassion, not because of some gimmick.”

“Children are dying in Africa from lack of clean water, and these people are wasting it.”

To all the above detractors — lighten up already! Who put the rocks in your Halloween bags?

Is there a logical connection between dumping ice water on one’s head and ALS? No! It’s ridiculous, crazy, nonsensical, and just plain fun. It doesn’t have to make sense.

Is it a gimmick? Sure! With scores of deserving causes, fundraisers have long known something has to motivate people to turn compassion into donations. Jerry Lewis has his Labor Day telethon for muscular dystrophy. The Susan G. Komen Foundation has its Race for the Cure for cancer. These things, and others like them, get people to give who otherwise might not. The ALS Association didn’t start the ice-bucket challenge, but the gimmick has worked in a way they never dreamed possible. What do you do when you suddenly have 35 times more money than you had last year? I’m sure they’ll figure something out.

Invoking thirsty African children to belittle ice-bucket challengers as water wasters is like post-World War II parents who got children to clean their plates at dinner by reminding them of “all the starving children in Europe.” Our kids ate, the European kids stayed hungry, and our kids got fat.

One 5-gallon bucket of water might keep a person in a hot climate alive for five days. But if Americans cut the length of their average 8 minute shower in half, the water saved by one person could keep at least eight people alive for an entire year.

Except that water wouldn’t get to Africa anyway. It’s too expensive to ship, and it’s not a long-term solution. People with real concern for the lack of clean drinking water in developing countries know the solution isn’t shipping water, it’s drilling wells and creating purification and distribution systems.

Refraining from the ice-bucket challenge wouldn’t have saved a soul. Doing it raised awareness and money that will speed the search for a cure.

I don’t care how it happened, I only care that it did. Thirty thousand people with ALS and their families have recognition and hope like never before. With a disease that kills most people within two to five years of diagnosis, hope is a precious thing, worth more than every drop of water that’s been spilled.

— david colburn

 

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