Why I Won’t Do The Ice Bucket Challenge


Unless you’ve been living under a rock or gone off the grid for a while, there’s no doubt you’ve seen an onslaught of “Ice Bucket Challenge” videos online and on TV. Most go a little something like this…

A person hands his/her phone to a friend of family member and stands behind a bucket of water, often with a bag of ice on the ground next to it. Then he/she says, “I’m So-and-So and I was nominated by John Doe to do the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness for ALS. I accept the challenge and get to nominate three people. So Mr. A, Ms. B and Mrs. C…you have 24 hours to do this or donate $100 to an ALS charity.” Then the person empties a bag of ice into a bucket of water and pours it over his/her head, eventually dries off and posts the video on social media (often with a hashtag like #IceBucketChallenge or #StrikeOutALS).

I’m all for raising awareness…for any cause. Having a sister with cystic fibrosis, losing a friend to metastatic melanoma and knowing countless women who’ve been affected by breast and ovarian cancer (or the risk of said diseases), I do all I can to volunteer, donate and raise awareness. But what I can’t accept are the fads that come and go.

Of course, it is incredible that the ALS Association has seen such a huge increase in donations in support of finding a cure for Lou Gehrig’s Disease. But what happens when summer is over and another Polar Vortex breezes through Chicago? Will people continue to support the charity or will they simply…move on to the next?

Take the Livestrong movement. Admittedly, when I was in high school I bought one of those yellow bands for $1 because…well…everyone else was doing it. I didn’t really grasp the whole concept of philanthropy. I’d like to chalk it up to being young and naive, but I don’t think that’s an excuse. I’m just happy I grew up and supported charities properly…and for the right reasons.

Back to the Ice Bucket Challenge. While I know some people are participating in the challenge and donating, I just can’t help but think most of the people participating are not actually supporting the charity. The reason why is the verbiage used each time someone posts their video: “You have 24 hours to complete this challenge or donate $100 to an ALS charity.” I hear that line over…and over…and over. It shouldn’t be an either or, and the line (as is) perpetuates the idea that people should dump a cold bucket of water on their head rather than financially support a charity. Or, you should both complete the challenge and donate…but perhaps you should donate less than $100 because you completed the challenge. It almost seems that instead of actually doing something, many just pretend like they’re doing something by posting a video on Facebook.

I mean, do most of these people even know what ALS stands for? Again, I’m not writing this blog as some high and mighty brat who’s just venting about a clogged Facebook feed. I’m simply wondering if the support for the ALS Association will continue after this fad is over. So whether I’m challenged to raise awareness for ALS or some other cause, I won’t be doing the Ice Bucket Challenge. I’d rather think of other ways to raise awareness and support charities in need by leading a major fundraising effort, volunteering at events for local non-profits (and local chapters of national non-profits) or donating my own money.

Lastly, I want to say that I’m proud to know anyone who fully supports the charities of their choice. While I think amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is terrible, and it pains me to know there’s no cure, I realize that people only have so much time and money to donate to a myriad of organizations. There’s a non-profit for everything: AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Alzheimer’s Association, Bright Pink, Compass to Care, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Melanoma Research Foundation, TCW Foundation and many, many more. My only hope is that people carry on and continue to support the ALS Association (or the charities of their choice) long after the ‘hashtag activism’ is over.

UPDATE! I want to reiterate that I am amazed at the amount of support the ALS Association has received thanks to the Ice Bucket Challenge. I think it’s incredible. The reason I was a little miffed before was because the original idea behind the challenge got lost in translation somewhere along the way…like a game a telephone you played as a kid.

Most of the videos I saw on my newsfeed last week did NOT encourage people to donate and do the challenge. They touted this either/or concept, and that bothered me. I even read comments on other videos where people said things like, “I’d rather dump water on my head than fork over 100 bones.” Perhaps the choice to include the notion of ‘hastag activism’ was a bit much, but I also hope that support for the ALS Association continues long after the viral videos fade away. Because my volunteer efforts for some of the other organizations mentioned above taught me that once is not enough. Organizations like these need continued support through fundraising, word of mouth, et cetera.


About Carrie Williams

Carrie Williams is TCW's managing/digital editor. She manages day-to-day editorial operations of the monthly print publication, website and social media outlets, contributes to a variety of feature articles and directs a team of interns, freelance writers and bloggers. In early 2013, she led the redesign of TCWmag.com/restructure of TCW's brand strategy. Her blog, "Carrie On," is a blog of reflection and discovery, discussing how to push through life when you’re handed one too many curveballs. And finally, Ms. Williams is also executive director of the TCW Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit supporting underfunded women's and children's organizations.