Unless you have been living under a rock the past few weeks, one way or another we’ve all watched a clip of someone we know torturing themselves by allowing buckets of ice cold water to be thrown over them. Just scrolling through Facebook you will find an assortment of ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ videos ranging from celebrities to your nearest and dearest all taking part in this hilariously ludicrous act. Some of us have had the misfortune of being ‘nominated’ and have felt the immense shock as, what seems like an endless flow of freezing water is poured over you, almost taking your breath away. While laughing at the expense of our loved ones has provided great entertainment for the last week, what has to be remembered is the unfortunate reason behind this internet sensation.

Back when the challenge was not affiliated with a specific charity, Charles Kennedy from Florida was nominated by a friend and decided to donate to the Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) charity and urged others to follow suit. This caught the attention of New Yorker and ALS sufferer Pat Quinn who, with the help of his friend and fellow sufferer Pete Frates, helped bring attention to the challenge by nominating stars such as American football star Tom Brady. And thus the amusing phenomenon began.

Participants are commonly seen either standing or sitting with their feet in a bucket of water whilst friends stand nearby preparing to throw the ice water over them. The participant will then accept the challenge and donate to the charity and nominate three more friends or family who must also accept the challenge or donate a greater sum of money to the foundation. Once the nominations have been made the participant will be doused in water, will more than likely scream with shock and then be drenched with the bucket of water for their feet over their head. The sensation from the ice water has been said to mimic what sufferers of ALS, also known as motor neurone disease, experience on a daily basis.

Popularity and awareness of ALS has shot up in just two months with more and more people learning more about the disease and its sufferers. The New York Times has released statistics that show there has been more than 1.2 million videos shared on Facebook and that this has been tweeted about more than 2.2 million times between June 1st and August 13th. Astounding statistics show that the ALS foundation, which raised $64 million in the whole of 2013, raised $10 million on the 21st of August alone. Other participants, mostly those in the United Kingdom, have also used the challenge to raise money for the charities of Motor Neurone Disease Foundation, MacMillan Cancer Support and MND Scotland.

Despite the success of the challenge, like any internet sensation, it comes with its criticisms with many saying it is focussing more on fun than actually raising money for the charity. Jackass star Steve-O criticised the celebrities that had taken part claiming that they made their videos about themselves and hadn’t used their popularity to raise more awareness, unlike stars like Charlie Sheen who not only donated $10,000 to the ALS foundation but raised awareness of the matter. Other celebrities have found faults with this challenge. Actress Pamela Anderson, refused her nomination due to the use of animals in the research for ALS. Research also uses embryonic stem cells which has sparked outrage from Pro-Life groups in the United States. Nonetheless, it cannot be argued that the challenge hasn’t raised millions for an extremely good cause, hitting the $50 million mark mid August.

So as we laugh at our tenth challenge video we’ve seen that day, what must remain in the centre of our minds is the hundreds of thousands of sufferers of ALS around the world who are benefiting from this viral challenge. We can only hope that the future holds a great deal more ridiculous and embarrassing challenges for more deserving charities, that the world can partake in. It could be the case that the ALS ice bucket challenge will become the cornerstone of a new entertaining era of fundraising.

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