22 August, 2014

Why the ALS Bucket Challenge is awesome.

Simvuyele Mageza
What does Britney Speares, Bill Gates, Justin Bieber and Mark Zuckerberg, among many others, all have in common? They took part in the ALS bucket challenge! In full view of everyone and anyone who has internet access.
The internet has become alight with the ALS bucket challenge, or the ice bucket challenge, with hundreds of thousands of people, celebrities included, dumping buckets of ice water on themselves and others in the name of charity. 
But how? You might  ask.
Well, ALS, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is a lethal neurodegenerative disorder also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is characterized by muscle spasticity, rapidly progressive weakness due to muscle atrophy, difficulty in speaking, swallowing and breathing. It is the most common of the 5 major muscle neuron diseases.
The ice bucket challenge suggests that people take videos and/or photos of themselves dumping ice or cold water on their bodies. As they do this, they will then nominate 3 other people to do the same. The original idea was either you donate money to the foundation or you hit the ice. People seem to be opting to do both.
Now, with any internet sensation, there are bound to be naysayers. But here are just a few reasons why the ice bucket is not just a publicity stunt.
1. It actually raises money for ALS research.
Will Oremus at Slate, Oremus argues that the challenge had nothing to do with ALS and that it seems unlikely that the campaign is actually the amount of money being given to ALS. He also said that, along with many others, people are posting videos but not actually donating money.
However, the ALS Association has since said that it raised over $15.6 million as a result of the campaign, nine times more than what it normally raises in the same time frame. Another ALS charity, Project ALS, told media that it’s donations were 50 times normal. 
2. It encourages people to donate to charity in general.
William McAskill, a moral philosopher wrote “…research from my own non-profit, which raises money for most effective global poverty charities, has found that, for every $1 we raise, $0.50 would have been donated anyway…so because of the overall money that ALS research has received, I’d bet that half of it is what other charities lost in the process.”
But this is very wrong. Firstly, there is 50% more money being given to other charities than there would have been among this group of donors. McAskill fears that this money and attention is being taken away from other charities, its an opportunity for them to find their own campaigns to compete. In this way, more money will be raised for good causes.
3. It is raising enough money to matter
Ezekiel Emanuel, chairman of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania reckons that for all the noise that this campaign is generating, it is quiet useless.  According to him, the money that has been made thus far is too little to make any real change, to be transformative. 
However, Rob Goldstein, the chief executive of ALS TDI, another ALS project, has said that the entire amount annually on ALS is around $80 million. So, with that said, a $15 million headstart is fantastic. 
We have seen it many times, especially when it comes to medical research. A little donation can go a long way, if invested properly. 
To find out more on where and how you can donate to ALS research, go to www.projectals.org/suport-us/donate-now/ 

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