I recently returned from Detroit, Mich., where I was the Team Vancouver-Galil Delegation Head at the JCC Maccabi Games (shameless plug: www.jccmaccabigames.org).
While there with my 22 teen athletes and artist, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was growing momentum faster than a rumored Robert Downey Jr. sighting at Comic Con.
To clarify for those living in the dark ages, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge asks nominees to chose between donating $100 to ALS research or dump a bucket of ice water over their head. Each participant then nominates someone(people) else to accept the same challenge – with 24 hours to act.
The more dumping I saw around Maccabi Land – and the more I saw posted online – the more criticism I began to hear that challenged the validity and purpose of dumping ice on one’s head in the name of a good deed.
I admit, when I first came across the challenge on Facebook I commented, “It is great to see exactly what lengths folks will go to avoid donating money to charity.”
However, as I saw it pop up again and again, growing in epidemic numbers, I started to see the value in the endeavor. Awareness was growing and ALSA.org was receiving more donations in a week than they had previously collected in a year.
By the time the JCC Maccabi Games came along it was rampant. Everyone and their dog (literally) was being challenged and the kitchen at the JCC in West Bloomfield was struggling to make ice fast enough.
By the time I returned home Facebook became flooded with articles like THIS ONE by Scott Gilmore in Maclean’s Magazine suggesting that the cute marketing gimmick (which actually didn’t get initiated for that purpose) was a “horrible reason to donate.”
Gilmore presents a several valid points about ALS research not meeting the top standards of the three factors one should consider when choosing where to send their limited charitable dollars. It is argued ALS doesn’t present the largest need – it is classified a rare disease, ALS research wont offer your dollars the greatest influence and ALS is hardly the most urgent problem in the world today.
Another post on iflscience.com provides an info-graphic on which diseases cause the most deaths in the USA vs where Americans focus their donations. These posts are no-doubt littered with wise words and offer a valid sense of awareness on their own.
However, this is nothing new. iflscience.com‘s info-graphic is not based on facts that have come out just since the Ice Bucket Challenge kicked off. For various reasons – the largest of which is simply due to marketing successes and failures – rare and unique diseases have pulled in a larger piece of the philanthropic pie than the actual leading causes of death, like heart disease or diabetes.
What frustrated me with the timing of these articles is that, at least in the case of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, it is about much more than just targeting American donor dollars. Watching people all over the world connect, bond, laugh and share in the name of something good was a blessing that, quite frankly, we don’t see enough of. Watching my kids – and all of my friends’ kids – get in on the action felt like humanity took a deep breath of fresh air amid a time in which the globe has been filled with muck and tragedy.
Maybe ALS research got lucky that a clever gimmick came along and helped their cause. And maybe ALS isn’t the charity most in need today. But in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge humanity got a win! Stop finding ways to take that away from us.