If you haven’t heard of the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge”, you’ve probably been living under a rock for quite a while now because in the past few weeks, it’s been impossible to not see your news feed on Facebook (or any other social media site) not be taunted with people posting videos of their ice bucket challenge. The people that have partaken in this challenge range from celebrities to your regular next door neighbour. Like the old saying goes “Monkey see, Monkey do”. Even though some people were not sure why they were doing the challenge or the idea behind the origin of the challenge, I can say this for a fact; the ALS ice bucket challenge was a distraction for some, from their regular mundane lives or perhaps it was just plain old mindless fun. Here are some significant information that you should know about the ALS ice bucket challenge.

1)    What does “ALS” stand for?

It means Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder that is among the most common motor neuron disorders. People living with this disease become progressively paralyzed due to degeneration of the upper and lower motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. 80% of people with ALS die within 2-5 years of diagnosis due to an inability to breathe or swallow, while 10% of patients may live 10 years or longer. Some symptoms of this disease include muscle spasticity, rapidly progressive weakness due to muscle atrophy, as well as difficulty in speaking (dysarthria), swallowing (dysphagia), and breathing (dyspnea). However, symptoms may vary and may be subjective.

2)    What causes “ALS”?

There is presently no known cause for ALS, however, it has been linked to a few genetic and familial factors. It has been observed that a small percentage of people (2%) with ALS often have a defect on chromosome 21.

3)    How many people are affected with “ALS”?

In Canada, the incidence rate of ALS is presently 2/100,000 people annually, and approximately 2,500 – 3,000 Canadians live with this disease.

4)    What is the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge”?

It’s an activity that requires a person to pour ice water from a bucket on their head to promote awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and to encourage people to give money to ALS research. The origin of the ice bucket challenge has been attributed to multiple sources but it’s said to be similar to the “Cold Water Challenge” that was created in mid-2013 to encourage donations to cancer research. During the summer of 2014, the ice bucket challenge went viral on social media after a few popular celebrities like David Beckham and Jennifer Lopez began doing the challenge. In other words, we can say it became a pop culture phenomenon.

5)    What are the rules?

After being nominated for the task, you have 24 hours to film a video of yourself doing the challenge. You must first say that you’re accepting the challenge, then you fill ice and cold water in a bucket size of choice. This bucket filled with water is then dumped on the participant’s head. After that, you nominate other people for the challenge. If you choose not to do the challenge, you must donate to the cause. However, some people decide to do the challenge and donate money.

6)    Where will your donation money go?

So far, the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” has raised over 10 million dollars in Canada. The money goes of course to ALS Canada which is a non-profit health organization. Its main goal is to focus on funding research to find a cure for ALS, as well as improving the quality of life for Canadians affected by the disease. In 2013, they were able to help 1,100 people and their families suffering from ALS by offering them support groups, home visits and providing them with support equipments. In 2013, here is what ALS Canada did with all the donation money:

29% research

– Grants (21%),

– Program support (8%) – National ALS Canada Research Conference, travel grants for ALS researchers, etc.

21% client services

6% public awareness

4% federation – national support

4% volunteer program development

Admin 9%

Governance 2%

Fundraising 25%

While donating, you can request that the money you donate should go to client care and not research.

7)    What to do with all this information?

After learning about ALS, it’s time for you to decide if you want to donate or not to this cause. It is completely your choice because you may decide to donate your time and money to other charities and researches, for example, cancer research because of personal reasons due to an affected family member or friend. As of right now, the incidence of ALS is smaller than a few other fatal diseases. For example, Ebola is doing a lot of damage in parts of Africa right now, it is considered a global health emergency. In addition, another part of Africa affected by several fatal diseases is Central Africa Republic, and these diseases have gone unheeded. We should also not forget the crisis happening in Syria. So we shouldn’t pick and choose which disease gets precedence over the other, because in truth, fatal diseases are all just that, fatal. If you want to do a good action for a good cause, you aren’t limited, there are several options. Choose a charity that speaks to you personally, not only because it’s fun or because it’s a pop culture phenomenon. So I challenge you to do good, ignore the fun, and donate money to a charity you want to, not because you have to.

Source: For more information about ALS, please visit ALS/SLA Canada.

Here is a video of Bill Gates doing the ice bucket challenge: