December 4, 2016

Professors, students voice opinions on Ice Bucket Challenge

by Estevan Ruiz

While it started out as a video challenge among a small group of people with the disease, The Ice Bucket Challenge has since expanded to celebrities and even former presidents taking part in the dare to spread awareness of the neurodegenerative disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

The social media campaign, which involves pouring a bucket of ice water over one’s head and sharing a video of it online, went viral at the beginning of August. The goal is to raise awareness for ALS—commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, after the famous baseball player—and raise money for the ALS Association’s (ALSA) charity foundation.ALS Infographic (2) ALS Infographic (2)

Over the past month and a half, the ALSA has received more than $100 million in donations compared to $2.6 million during roughly the same time period last year.

Development Coordinator for the ALSA St. Louis regional chapter and Webster University alumna Natalie Pottebaum said the Ice Bucket Challenge has been a blessing.

Pottebaum said that people who look back at the Ice Bucket Challenge will see it as something that had a huge impact for the people suffering from ALS. As a leader of St. Louis’ ALSA chapter, the challenge helped her goal to fund research and to support those with ALS and their families.

“People have responded with such generosity. It is truly remarkable and we couldn’t be more appreciative,“ Pottebaum said.

Pottebaum said the Ice Bucket Challenge started organically by individuals with the disease, and their commitment to the cause inspired people on social media to do the same.

“Something to this magnitude has never been seen before and may never be duplicated,“ Pottebaum said.

Keeping with the trend, Webster’s Student Ambassadors recently participated in the challenge.

“It’s brought so many people around the world together to support one effort. I think it’s really great,” Billy Ratz, advisor to the Student Ambassadors, said at the event.

However, some critics of the viral videos say the challenge has become less about the actual charity.

“This is great for the people that are donating, but it’s really just become something of a fashion statement to have your ALS challenge done,” Gareth Anderson, a Webster student, said.

Other critics have stated their concern for the waste of clean drinking water. Celebrity Matt Damon targeted this idea specifically when he performed the challenge with toilet water to highlight his personal work.

“It posed kind of a problem for me,” Damon said in his video. “I co-founded Water.org and we envision a day when everybody has access to a clean drink of water.”

Webster Environmental Science Professor Jeff Depew felt although it could be a waste of water depending on the climate, it’s probably too minor an amount to really make a difference. However, he said re-used water would have been his first choice.

Another criticism concerns the sheer size of the total donations, and whether or not enough is enough.

“I suspect this is mostly new giving and so probably won’t adversely impact other charitable giving,” Steven Hinson, an economics professor at Webster, said. “It’s impossible to know whether a different distribution of some of these funds wouldn’t have an overall greater social impact.”

Pottebaum said as of now, the ALSA has yet to firmly lay out their plans for the unexpected increase in donations.

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