Unless you’ve had your head under a bucket, you’ve seen the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge - now making a splash across the Middle East!
It’s the charity stunt that dumps freezing water and ice on billionaires and beauty queens, pop stars and presidents (and everyone in between!) aiming to raise awareness and money to cure amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) . This horrific illness affects the brain and the spinal cord - knocking out your ability to walk, chew and breathe, eventually leading to total paralysis. It’s progressive and fatal, and right now there is no cure.
The challenge works like this: people film themselves being doused with frigid water, upload the footage to social media, and nominate others to do the same within 24 hours. Nominees can accept the challenge (repeat the stunt and pop a $10 donation to an ALS charity of their choice) or opt to stay dry, but that bumps your promised contribution up to $100. Those figures are notional, but you get the idea - pay to take a pass!
Naysayers complain that Middle East celebs are diverting charitable attention from ballooning refugee populations resulting from the Gaza crisis and fallout from civil wars in Syria and Iraq. Others bemoan senseless water wastage in our uber-parched region. But fundraising is a competitive sport, so kudos to anyone who cracks the code on attracting big money and continued interest for such a terrifying and depressing subject.
The Ice Bucket Challenge is brilliant marketing that can be applied to any cause célèbre. This newest form of crowdsourcing (essentially a “wet-t-shirt-contest-gone-wild”) appeals to masses of deep-pocketed people with spare time and a smartphone. Why limit your narcissism to a “selfie” when you can star in a (well, at least you find it) funny video? Frivolity masks the mission’s seriousness - a spoon of sugar to help the medicine go down.
The benefits of awareness and funding outweigh the critique. As of Saturday morning, The ALS Association  had received $62.5 million in donations compared to $2.4 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 23). More critically, they claim that people who had never heard of ALS are now engaged in the fight to find treatments and a cure.
Support the cause if it moves you. Learn more about the issues. But remember that the star is ALS, not the knucklehead who’s dripping wet.