Who’s all wet?

By on August 20, 2014


Andy Fasnacht

Andy Fasnacht

Is there anyone out there who hasn’t been touched,  or soaked, by the great ALS Ice Bucket Challenge?
For those not on social media, where videos are being posted constantly, or anyone who has not seen a challenge in person around the community, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a fundraising giant created by Pete Frates, a former Boston College baseball star. Frates was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) two years ago, was able to get 200 people to do the Ice Bucket Challenge simultaneously in Copley Square back on Aug. 7 … and the phenomenon began.
The “challenge” of the Ice Bucket Challenge is for “nominated” individuals to either dump a bucket of ice water on your head, or make a donation to ALS. While doing so, someone must videotape, post to social media and then nominate three more to do the same.
And now it seems to be absolutely everywhere. Of course, it didn’t take long for many to start weighing in on the phenomenon fueled powerfully by the almighty social media. It is at times like this that its power is revealed in stages like a rogue great white shark or category 5 hurricane … only with much more positive results. We think we knew how it all works and what it can do, but could anyone have really predicted how big this would become?
One scroll through my Facebook inbox just about any hour of the day over the past week reveals four or five new ice bucket posts. Most are local friends but others are posted videos of various celebrities taking the challenge &tstr; from Larry the Cable Guy having a back-hoe dump the icy water, to Derek Jeter having teammates douse him in the locker room. Each celebrity, each video, brings more and more attention not only to the fund-raiser, but even more importantly to the organization and the dreaded disease it battles. So as the nation watched it grow and grow, it was only a matter of time until some type of debate would begin about the phenomenon &tstr; because that’s just what happens with phenomenons, positive or negative. TV pundits and others on social media began questioning if the fun of doing the challenge was overtaking those who take pen in hand to write out a check. Some took it even further and asked if the challenge was more of a narcissistic than a philanthropic effort. It was indeed fascinating listening to these discussions for they seemed to really tap into parts of the current state of our social conscience and what truly motivates people.
For years we have been talking about our changing society and what gets people to take action. What drives a person to join the Lions or Rotary clubs, volunteer at their child’s school, sell subs for a fund-raiser, coach a sports team or simply help out a neighbor in need? There is no question that my generation and younger have been labeled as being more of a “me” culture wrapped up in their own lives and not truly understanding the meaning of the word community. Often, it is the association with younger people and electronics of all types &tstr; from phones, to computers to music devices and video games &tstr; that fuels this stereotype. Isn’t it ironic that it’s the social media, tapped through many of these devices, which has fueled unprecedented, historic fundraising? Now granted, this certainly does not mean the other concerns about lack of volunteerism, social interaction, and community involvement for younger generations goes away, it just is an irony which can’t be overlooked. Just like these numbers can’t be overlooked.
Regardless of how you want to label this effort and the reason people have been hooked to it, the fundraising totals for the ALS Association have been staggering. As of Tuesday, the time period from July 29 to Aug. 19 has seen donations to ALS surge to $22.9 million. The amount raised during the same time frame last year was $1.9 million, meaning that donations have jumped by an unbelievable 1,100 percent. So clearly people are not just dumping water on their heads. It is at moments like these, when the results are revealed, that many start saying they don’t really care what motivates someone to get involved and/or give. On top of all the additional funds, the organization has reported an amazing 453,210 new donors &tstr; more awareness, more involvement, more potential for the future.The four-star charity, according to Charity Navigator, has come out in the wake of all this success stating how critical it is that they are good stewards of these new funds. The incredible thing is, as of Tuesday night, there seemed to still be plenty of momentum remaining.
I wanted to touch base this week with two of our local residents battling the disease, who have been featured in the paper several times recently. Unfortunately I was unable to connect with local photographer Dave Ihde in the past two days. Dave has been a tremendous advocate for ALS since his diagnosis, making great strides to raise awareness, traveling to and participating in many events. We try hard to publicize as many of these as possible and Dave always has such a tremendous, upbeat attitude about the whole thing. The other is Randy Walker, who just happens to be a former classmate and former football teammate. Randy was diagnosed earlier this year and like Dave, has tried to take a positive approach and get involved. Though Randy was a wide receiver on our football team, he was also one of the strongest players. In fact, Randy perhaps was well-known for his “human flagpole,” where he could suspend himself perpendicular to a light or telephone pole with only his arms. Thinking about that often makes it more difficult to watch him struggle.
Fortunately. our classmates stepped up for Randy well before the Ice Bucket Challenge even began. Shortly after Randy’s diagnosis, a rotation was set up to make sure his lawn gets mowed each week. Donations were made to an account and a rider mower was eventually purchased when he moved to a home with a first floor bedroom but larger yard. Classmates also were there to help him move, and did some additional work around the house. Another classmate and great friend of Randy’s, Darrell May, has organized a Labor Day event at the Host called “Bike-In,” that has been written about now for several weeks. Just like with the Ice Bucket Challenge, we have no idea what motivates people to do what they do and in the end, does it really matter? The bottom line is, if they made a conscious decision to block off time on their calendar to help, to make that a priority over the other things in their life, if only for an hour or two, or just give, then doesn’t that trump the reason why?
For Randy’s part, when asked to comment on the Ice Bucket Challenge, he quickly shared, through e-mail, what a special weekend he just had.
“This past weekend was quite a lot of fun. First, at our monthly support group meeting, our group leader (Joan) informed us that she was taking the challenge at the end of our meeting. Our group took great joy by adding more ice to the bucket. Joan was a good sport, and challenged the Channel 8 morning show.
“Second, later that same day, my wife (Lisa), and stepdaughter (Tori) took the challenge. As I continue to rewatch these on Facebook, I still get emotional.”
Randy said he plans to do it as well.
So we say if you are still skeptical about all this, the evidence says you likely are all wet.
Or should be.


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