By Cody Worsham
Paul Mainieri looked left to the legend seated beside him, bewildered.
“What are we supposed to do?” the LSU baseball coach asked his predecessor, former Tiger coach Skip Bertman. “Are we allowed to scream?”
Ten seconds later, both skippers were soaked and shivering, the latest in a line of local and national celebrities to take part in the coolest viral sensation of the year, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
Unless you’ve been cryogenically frozen for the last two weeks, you’ve surely by now seen your Facebook timeline and Twitter feeds flooded with participants dousing themselves in buckets of ice water as part of the fundraiser for the ALS Association. In the videos, participants who have been challenged dump a bucket of freezing water over their heads before selecting others to do the same. The challenged have 24 hours to respond with their own video; if they don’t, they’re asked to donate $100 to the ALS Association.
Despite the challenge’s inherent logical flaws (the very act of completing the challenge negates the fundraising aspect of it), it’s been wildly successful. Not only have the videos generated unforeseen awareness of ALS – a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease – but many who have taken the challenge have decided to donate to the association regardless, resulting in record-breaking numbers. As of Tuesday, August 19, the ALS Association had received $22.9 million in donations, a 1200 percent increase in donations up to this date last year ($1.9 million).
ALS Association President and CEO Barbara Newhouse said the response has been overwhelming.
“Our top priority right now is acknowledging all the gifts made by donors to The ALS Association,” she said in a release. “We want to be the best stewards of this incredible influx of support. To do that, we need to be strategic in our decision making as to how the funds will be spent so that when people look back on this event in ten and twenty years, the Ice Bucket Challenge will be seen as a real game-changer for ALS.”
The challenge exploded last month when former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates, who has ALS, participated and spread the message to his massive social media following. Before long, celebs like Justin Timberlake, Oprah, and LeBron James had joined in.
Among those local celebrities who have completed the challenge with Mainieri and Bertman are LSU football coach Les Miles, Gov. Bobby Jindal, singer/actor Harry Connick, Jr. and quarterback Drew Brees, who was challenged by former Saints player and ALS spokesman Steve Gleason. Gleason, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2011, is the face of ALS advocacy group Team Gleason, which has also seen donations soar in recent weeks.
Gleason has frequently expressed his gratitude for the awareness generated by the challenge, but in a video posted on his website last week, he encouraged participants to open their wallets, as well.
“Somewhere in the world, an ALS patient dies every 90 minutes,” he said. “We could have 6 billion people dump ice over their heads, and it wouldn’t change the brutal and silent deaths over 100,000 people worldwide will experience in the next 12 months. “So, in addition to dumping ice over your heads – step up, donate. Get involved. Care for patients.”