Last week I poured a bucket of ice water over my own head.
This apparently crazy behaviour is extremely common at the moment; just about the whole world seems to be filling up Facebook feeds with videos of them doing exactly the same thing.
This collective madness is all in aid of charity. Known as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, the craze began in America to raise money for the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association. In the UK ALS is known as Motor Neuron Disease (MND).
The challenge involves someone having a bucket of ice water poured over their head and then nominating someone else to do the same thing, sharing the evidence on social media.
The charity bit comes from the fact that the person nominated must not only pour cold water over themselves, but must also donate to charity. If the nominee refuses the challenge they should donate more. Generally accepted sums seem to be in the order of £10 with challenge, £100 for a refusal.
So, I have gone along with the craze, but it has raised a number of issues in my mind.
1. Generally I don’t buy into these crazes. I am a little uncomfortable with people being forced to do things through peer pressure, even when it is in a good cause. However, there is something so mad about this craze and so many people seem to have become involved, and had so much fun doing it, it seemed churlish to refuse.
2. The craze started in America in the summer. Here in the UK it is getting distinctly autumnal. Pouring ice water over your head seems a whole lot less inviting in these circumstances. Luckily we Brits are made of sterner stuff.
3. As always with this type of thing, there is a lot of criticism along the lines of “can’t you just donate to charity without going through all of this nonsense”, and yes, of course you can. However, people quietly and anonymously donating does nothing to raise awareness of the charity. Okay, so a lot of celebrities and other attention seekers get to show off, but at the end of it a lot more people have more awareness of ALS/MND than they had before, which has to be a good thing.
4. The craze was started to raise awareness for a specific charity: ALS. However, I notice that increasingly people are stating that they are donating to alternative charities. On the one hand this is all good because any donation to charity is a good thing. On the other hand, it seems to go against the aim of raising money and awareness for this specific charity. MND is not one of the popular, sexy charities, so it seems a shame when the money raised by their stunt ends up going to the often much more popular, better-funded charities. You don’t see this elsewhere: people don’t do the race for life or take part in a cancer awareness head-shaving event and then donate the money to the British Heart Foundation or the Cat’s Protection League. Maybe it is because in the UK we don’t know what ALS is, but charities deliberately free-loading on the craze seems ethically wrong to me.
If you have done the challenge and donated to charity – any charity – then well done. If you have decided to be a bah-humbug about the whole thing, then that is your prerogative. Either way, hopefully it has met its aim of raising awareness for ALS/MND. If you are looking to donate, then here’s a link to help: https://www.justgiving.com/mndassoc/