Video produced by Gabriel Goh
Sept. 4 – The crowd was silent, waiting for the big moment. Participants shivered with anticipation as they looked down into their buckets filled with icy cold water. Suddenly, Senior Callum Nesbitt’s familiar voice boomed, “Three.. two.. one!”
Screams and laughter filled the air, and a few people leaped wildly as the frigid ice and water drenched their bodies. SAS had taken on the ALS Bucket Challenge with no fear, but one question still remained: had it helped or hurt?
There are those who say the ice bucket challenge is the greatest viral charity meme ever, raising over $88.5 million for ALS, while others declare it an empty irresponsible act that makes a mockery of the water shortage felt around the world.
So, is the currently trending Ice Bucket Challenge the best awareness campaign? Or is it another “One like=One life saved” fad on Facebook that has no genuine purpose?
Without a doubt, more people are aware of ALS than ever before due to the ice bucket challenge.
Senior Rhea Bhatia learned about ALS through the viral Ice Bucket Challenges. “It was spreading through social media. And since it started out in the US, my friend told me about ALS and that’s how I found out about it.”
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is an incurable neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. People who are diagnosed with ALS feel gradual muscle weakness in the arms and legs, and over time have a hard time speaking, swallowing, and breathing. To encourage awareness and donations towards research for a cure, nominated people must pour a bucket of iced water over their heads in the time span of 24 hours, or they would have to donate to the cause.
Toorjo Mishra, a senior, nominated by senior Stuart Baker, said “[he] took on the ALS challenge to get more people to do it like people in India and around the world who don’t know about it.” Soaking wet, he nominated three other people to take on the challenge.
However, some nominated people, like senior Danny Hong, did not take on the challenge. “I couldn’t be bothered to do it, no time to do it as well, no ice too,” Hong said.
Others believe it’s a waste of water. Let’s not forget the drought in California. The executive director of the Soil and Water Conservation Society, Jim Gulliford, told The Wire in an email interview, “Fresh water is one of our nation’s most precious resources.” He continued, “It is a resource that should never be undervalued or wasted. This becomes even more important when areas of our country are suffering from drought.”
According to The Washington Post, the campaign has used up to five million gallons of water so far.
With so many people participating in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, it is no surprise that so much water has been used. From construction workers to the former President of the United States, George W. Bush, people all over the world have contributed in making the Ice Bucket Challenge on the top of newsfeeds and front of newspapers, as well as collecting up to $88.5 million. Compared to last year’s donations of only $2.6 million in the same time period, the Ice Bucket Challenge has had a staggering impact.
But how much of this donation actually goes into researching the cure for ALS? Jose Canura, a skeptical Facebook user, refused to take on the challenge or to donate to the cause because with a little research, he found out that “as of 2012, ALSA has directed only 7.71% of its budget to Research.”
However, ALS Association labels this information as a “misinformation that inaccurately divides the amount the national office spends on research with the total expense of national and chapters combined.” The association admits that they use “28% of [their] annual expenses” for the Research.
In response to the ALSA statistics, Senior Kisara Thompson remarked, “that’s still such a small amount of our donations that goes to the Research.”
That is not to say that ALS is not an important issue. Anthony Carbajal, a man suffering from ALS, said in a heartfelt video on YouTube that he promises those fed up with the challenge that “our news feed will go back to cat videos and Let It Go Covers,” but right now ALS has the forefront. “You have no idea how every single challenge lifts my fears… You are making a difference,” he said.
Through Mrs. Ursula Pong and Hayden Mountcastle’s nomination, SAS students came out to the atrium after school on Friday, Aug. 22, 2014, to dump ice water over their heads. Callum Nesbitt, with his powerful voice, led the students through the challenge and nominated Nikhil Nilakantan, Queen’s University, and the rest of the IASAS schools.
But wait– are people just taking on the challenge for the fun of it, not knowing or caring what this challenge is truly about? Has this challenge become nothing more than a silly internet meme? Senior Jacob Lee admits, “It does raise awareness, but it didn’t really have an impact on me, cause I just saw it as another popularity stunt.”
On the contrary, Hayden Mountcastle had nominated the whole school for one reason: “to spread awareness on not an individual basis, but on a schoolwide basis at an international level.” Mountcastle believes the SAS Ice Bucket Challenge has had profound effects. He adds, “Contrary to what the skeptics may believe, awareness does lead to donations. Even though we never directly asked for donations, we raised almost 150 dollars in the end.”
It may be a small contribution, but Mountcastle and the others believe SAS is making a difference, one bucket at a time.