THE ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE has officially gone viral, but its authenticity as an agent for change is somewhat questionable. As someone who volunteers frequently in my community and around the world, I know that raising awareness is only the first step; the best way to make a difference, is to create active change. It definitely feels good to be a part of something big, but if you really want to strike out ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), here are some ways to keep the fire going:
Donate. Apart from a five-second ice bath, this is the easiest way you can help defeat ALS. Calculate how much you spend on Starbucks each week, and instead of getting your Frappuccino fix, make a donation. You’ll big up your karma points, and feel good knowing that you’re helping to fund ALS research and programs.
Volunteer your time. There are a few ways to do this. You can volunteer with an ALS Association, by helping to organize fundraising events, facilitate patient services, perform clerical work, and more. Spending time with patients is also a way to really make an impact on the lives of people living with ALS. You can help them run errands, be a greeter at hospitals and clinics, or just hang out with them.
Lobby for more research, and comprehensive benefits. Did you know that there is currently only one FDA approved medicine to treat ALS, that the cause of ALS is still a complicated mystery, and that there is no cure? Every year, families with members suffering from ALS struggle with costly medical bills, time off from work to help care for them, and making sure they receive proper treatment.
Why the hell aren’t we doing more? The Ice Bucket Challenge has been great for raising awareness that this condition exists, but once you’ve gotten wet and cold, take it a step further and make it known to government officials that more needs to be done in order to fight this fatal condition.
Study science and/or technology. Students enrolled in STEM fields are on the rise, but we still have a long way to go before we are able to make the significant impacts needed to combat diseases like ALS. The more we can learn about how the body works, what happens when diseases infiltrate our system, and how science and technology can improve the lives of people with living with ALS, the closer we’ll be to finding a cure.
Do a reverse Ice Bucket Challenge. The problem with the current Ice Bucket Challenge, is that it gives people an easy way out. Either pour ice water over your head, or pony up some cash. While it’s encouraged to both soak yourself and donate, there is no requirement to do so.
The campaign has raised over $4 million dollars so far, but I have my doubts that every single person posting on my Facebook wall has actually made a donation. What if the challenge were like this? “Hey Bill Gates, I’ll donate $50,000 to ALS research if you dump this bucket of ice water on your head!” “Sure Mark Zuckerburg, I’ll match your donation if you do the same!” It would turn the situation into more of a “challenge,” and less of a “this-or-that” choice.