Life in the Boomer Lane, consumed with the online hunt for the perfect winter boots, was unaware of the Ice Bucket Challenge. She was alerted to this when she received three text videos of her children, one jumping into a pool, one pouring a bucket of water over his head and one pouring a bucket of ice over his, after each, in turn had challenged the other. The videos were hilarious, and once again reaffirmed to LBL that if you change enough diapers and survive enough tantrums, your children will ultimately grow up to amuse you. .
The Ice Bucket Challenge turns out to be for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fairly horrific disorder. Some people know it as “Lou Gehrig’s disease”, after baseball great Lou Gehrig publicly revealed his diagnosis. Years later, English theoretical physicist and author Stephen Hawking again increased awareness. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. Patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.
But in spite of Lou Gehrig and Stephen Hawking, the disease remained unknown and uncared about for most people. There are few runs/walks/marches to raise awareness and funding for ALS. Like many terrible conditions, the only people who seemed to care were those afflicted and those who loved the ones afflicted. Then, just this summer, the Ice Bucket Challenge appeared. Make a commitment to give $100 to ALS and throw a bucket of ice water on you head. Easy, except maybe for the ice water part.
A lot of folks who didn’t know what ALS was, did know what throwing a bucket of water over one’s head was. And $100 seemed a small price to pay for all that fun. The challenge went viral and the money started pouring in. Visit the ALS site (a very not sexy, bare bones site) now and see the Ice Bucket Challenge prominently displayed at the top. Over $16 million has been raised so far, thanks to all the folks standing around with ice water on their heads.
Nobody knows exactly who the first human was who thought of the idea of throwing a bucket of cold water over one’s head as a way to raise awareness for a disease. But without social media, one would have been standing somewhere being very uncomfortable and have no way to share it with the world.