Saturday, September 20, 2014

Defending My Choice to Give to Charity

A couple of weeks ago, I was nominated to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Now, I am sure that most of you are familiar with what this is, but for the few of you who may not be, I'll try to explain.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. It basically causes the muscles of the body to stop receiving nourishment.

Sometime within the last couple of years, someone came up with a genius idea and the Ice Bucket Challenge was born. It involves a person dumping a bucket of ice water over their head and then challenging someone else (usually three others) to do the same. This is usually captured on video and posted on the internet for everyone to see.

A person who has been challenged is to donate $100 to the ALS Association ( However, many people do not have an extra $100 laying around, so they have another option. If they dump ice water on their head and post a video of it on the internet, they can give a smaller amount of their choosing. They are also to nominate three more people for the challenge. This is all supposed to happen within 24 hours.

Whether the people nominated donate the full amount or a smaller amount, the cycle lives on as long as the nominees continue to keep nominating more people. As of the time of this posting, the ALS Association website states that the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised over $114 million dollars for the cause.

After being nominated myself, I sprang to action that same afternoon. Here is my video.

I wanted to do something different from the thousands of other videos that have been uploaded to YouTube and have a little bit of fun. It took some courage for me to remove my shirt in front of a camera, but I was happy with my video and glad I did it…for a few days.

Before long, I started noticing posts on Facebook and Twitter that seemed to condemn the practice of participating in this challenge. Anti-Ice Bucket memes started popping up all over my feed.

People were posting about how they had been challenged, but chose to just donate in private and not make a public spectacle out of their generosity like all the attention whores. 

Others ridiculed the people who participated in order to get out of having to give. This one had a little bit of a point since there were a large number of people who had completely misunderstood how this was supposed to work. People willing to dump the ice were not supposed to do this to get out of donating. It was to be able to give a smaller amount and pass the challenge on to others to raise even more money.

Now, these posts may have already been there before I participated and I was only now noticing because I had recently done it. Also, none of this was directed specifically toward me. Since I was seeing it on Facebook, that means it was coming from my friends. People who I love and I know love me, so I did not take any of this personally, but it did bother me a bit. Suggesting that me participating in fundraising for a worthy charity was bad or self-serving in some way just didn't sit well with me.

First of all, suggesting that the people who participated in this challenge are a bunch of greedy attention whores* is completely unfair. It is true that I only donated to ALS because I was nominated for the challenge. Sure, I could have donated without participating or even without having been nominated, but there are literally thousands of causes out there. No one knows which causes or how many causes I may already be contributing to. They also don't know how much or for how long I have been giving. The fact that I put a video of my dumping ice water on my head does not prove that I only give when it is a game. A person's generosity (or lack of) is in no way indicated by whether or not they chose to participate in this phenomenon.

*The attention whore part I will concede to. I am and always have been an attention whore.

In fact, there are literally thousands of very generous people out there who have not contributed to this cause. They have been giving to other causes that they are passionate about. It may be to feed starving children, prevent animal cruelty, raise domestic abuse awareness, clean up a city park, elect a political official, protect the mosquitoes, bring back bell-bottom jeans, or an infinite number of other possible causes. Once again, whether or not a person participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge will tell the observers absolutely nothing about the generosity of that person.

That's a lot of zeros
I will even take this a little further. Participating in the challenge and participating publicly contributes more money to the cause than giving privately. If I privately contribute $100 to ALS, then ALS has $100 they didn't have before and that is a good thing. However, it stops right there. On the other hand, if I give $50 and then challenge three others to do the same, the $50 each of them contributes (plus my $50) adds up to a total of $200 instead of just the original $100. This doesn't even add in the money that will get contributed by the people that they challenge and then the people that they challenge. Even if people only contribute $10 instead of $50, it is still vastly more than the original $100. However the numbers deviate, it cannot be denied that in whatever way people participated or contributed or even completely misunderstood the point of how this is supposed to work, $114 million dollars has been raised with this challenge.

That's a lot of zeros.

If we had relied on the adage of people should just give more, then this money would not have been raised. I salute the person or team who came up with this idea and I am sure it will not be the last time that people are looked down upon for doing something good.


  1. I don't really understanding the negativity surrounding the challenge. Yes, it's done publicly but those who participate are still donating and challenging others who then donate and thus the cycle continues.

    My family have all done the bucket challenge and I admire those who take part. Well done Brett.

    1. Thank you. Plus, it was a lot of fun and I'm all about the fun.

  2. I was told that the challenge was started because it shows you what it's like to be paralyzed, if only for a second or two. I'm not sure how true it is though.

    I was challenged but I never had the chance to do it, or a place, or enough ice. There's about a million reasons but that doesn't mean I won't do it. It also doesn't mean that I ignored it because I looked up the information and learned about it. Awareness was raised, which is a big deal. Plus, I liked about a hundred videos of it on Facebook.

    1. I believe I have heard that somewhere else. Part of it was to show us what it was like. The band I nominated never did do it because they were on tour at the time and claimed they didn't have time before shows.

  3. I completely agree. Not only does the challenge raise money that would otherwise not have been raised, but going on Facebook to say something like "I choose to just be a good person and donate" is more of a cry for attention and approval than just doing the challenge.

    1. Yeah. And it's hard to argue with such a large amount of money.

  4. The fact that a glass can be described as half empty takes nothing away from the fact that it is half full. Large groups/movements will always have detractors. Don't let em get to ya, bud.

    1. Thanks, Ian. It was short-lived, but I just couldn't shake it for a few days.

  5. Ha ha, yours was indeed original! I almost gagged when you ate that Pop Tart. And who got the wonderful job of cleaning out that tub???

    I agree with you completely. I was at first annoyed at the posts of those who didn't even mention ALS, or thought that doing the challenge exempted them from donating, but when I heard how much of an increase the donations were this year from the same time last year, I instantly let that go. Because no matter what, this challenge worked!

    1. It took a little while to plan everything out to be prepared for it. The Pop-Tart was oatmeal in a bowl. The pizza was all fresh in a plate. I just had to map it all out first. It was fun.

      I did the while thing before Red got home from work and had it cleaned up as well.


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