ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease as it’s more commonly known is a horrible disease. My own grandfather had it and I watched him go from an incredibly healthy man to a physical shell of his former self in a matter of six months. It paralyzes you, you see, and it either starts at the head and moves down or it starts at the feet and moves up. Eventually, you stop breathing and die.
For my grandfather, it started at the head meaning that he lost the ability to speak first. I’m sure that he would have gladly traded the ability to walk in order to speak clearly with us, his family, until the later stages of the disease. Instead, it meant that for the better part of the year he couldn’t clearly communicate with any of us. Any conversations he and I had needed to be handwritten on his part and, later, he could basically only point at a board we had in order to communicate. It was like a super low tech version of what Stephen Hawking has.
At the end, he couldn’t move at all although he did manage a rare smile once my Great Uncle visited and proceeded to give him a hard time about something that happened 50 years prior. It was a rare bit of joy before he passed.
There are a lot of people who disparage social media awareness campaigns and question their effectiveness. There’s often good reason for that. Boko Haram is still terrorizing Nigeria to this day and those girls of #BringOurGirlsBack still haven’t been returned. But those are things outside of the direct control of the people. This ALS charity campaign was within the control of the people. It caught on and the people delivered, big time.
According to Time, last year, during the same time period, mid-July to present, the ALS Association raised only $50,000. Now compare that to the $15.6 million donated in the same time period this year. It’s astounding and it means that research will now occur that would not have occurred otherwise.
There are a lot of reasons to feel cynical about these kinds of campaigns whether they’re regarding social movements, charities, or conflicts in far flung parts of the world but one thing this does confirm is that people do want to give, not just dump ice water on their heads for all the world to see.
And that matters. It matters a great deal and it should make me, you, everyone, pretty happy.
Go here if you’d like to make a donation of your own but I didn’t write this so you would. Also, here’s the very first Ice Bucket Challenge to ever appear.
— Chris Kennedy (@ckgolfsrq) July 15, 2014