Internet trends are a dime a dozen these days. Everything from Tebowing to planking to the cinnamon challenge can cause a wave of social media activity that can last for weeks before fizzling out.
Yet, it’s much tougher to find a movement on the Internet that actually makes a difference.
That doesn’t seem to be the case for the ice bucket challenge, which has swept across the country in less than a month in an effort to raise money and awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The challenge involves people getting doused with buckets of ice water on video, posting that video to social media, then nominating others to do the same, all in an effort to raise ALS awareness. Those who refuse to take the challenge are asked to make a donation to an ALS charity.
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body, according to ALS Association.
The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.
The origins of the challenge are almost impossible to pinpoint. Some give credit to pro golfer Chris Kennedy, who did the ice-bucket challenge July 15 and then challenged his cousin Jeanette Senerchia. Her husband, Anthony, has had ALS for 11 years.
The next day, Senerchia had her daughter film her taking the challenge in front of their house and she posted it on Facebook.
However, others credit 29-year old Pete Frates for making the challenge go viral. Frates, who has had ALS since 2012, no longer has the ability to talk or move his arms and legs. With the song “Ice Ice Baby” playing, Frates was drenched at Fenway Park surrounded by family members, Boston Red Sox manager, John Farrell, and third baseman, Will Middlebrooks.
Regardless of where the ice bucket challenge began, it has taken over the summer.
The ice-bucketing craze has been mentioned 2.2 million times on Twitter between June 1 and Wednesday. Video posts on Facebook have topped 2.4 million as of Aug. 18, according to Time.com.
As of Tuesday, The ALS Association has received $22.9 million in donations compared to $1.9 million between July 29 and Aug. 19 last year.
“Our top priority right now is acknowledging all the gifts made by donors to The ALS Association,” said Barbara Newhouse, President and CEO of The ALS Association. “We want to be the best stewards of this incredible influx of support. To do that, we need to be strategic in our decision making as to how the funds will be spent so that when people look back on this event in ten and twenty years, the Ice Bucket Challenge will be seen as a real game-changer for ALS.”
LeBron James, Bill Gates, Justin Bieber, Kevin Durant, and Jon Bon Jovi have all taken on the challenge and passed it on.