What Is ALS, And Why Are People Dumping Ice Water On Each Other For It?

By now, you’ve probably seen a YouTube video of someone doing the so-called “Ice Bucket Challenge,” or, at least, you’ve heard of it. And if you haven’t, here’s one by YouTuber Yoanty.

So the idea is pretty simple: You get a bucket of ice water dumped on your head. And this somehow has something to do with raising money for ALS. So, how are the two connected?

To answer that question, you first have to understand the idea of a YouTube Challenge.

Basically, a YouTube Challenge involves doing something terrifying, funny, impossible, ridiculous, or all of the above, and then posting it on YouTube. One of the earliest, and most well-known, is the “Cinnamon Challenge,” where users are tasked with swallowing a whole spoonful of cinnamon at once (HINT: It’s almost impossible, and slightly dangerous).

After you do it, you challenge your friends to do it, and Voila! Instant fad!

At some point, the idea of raising money for charity got attached to YouTube Challenges. That is, you accept a challenge, and upload a video of yourself attempting the challenge. If you fail the challenge, or fail to upload a video of yourself doing the challenge in a certain amount of time (usually 24 hours), you pay a certain amount of money to charity. If you complete the challenge, you name a friend in the video, to do the challenge. If he/she completes it, they name a friend, and so on. If they don’t, they donate money. These “challenges” are also used to raise awareness of certain issues (see this Inquisitr article).

Now, there are good ways to raise money for charity, and there are bad ways. For example, a bad way is to set yourself on fire, as several teens found out the hard way, via second-degree burns, according to the Washington Post.

So what do ALS and ice water have to do with all of this? Well, the latest, and most popular, of the YouTube Challenges that have gone around lately was dreamed up by Pete Frates, a Massachusetts resident with ALS. The challenge is simple: get a bucket of ice water dumped on your head. If you don’t, donate some money to ALS research.

ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurological disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, according to the ALS Association. The disease is more commonly known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” named after the famed baseball player who contracted the disease at the height of his career, and later died of it.

As of this post, it’s unclear how much money the Ice Water Challenge has raised for ALS research, but it’s probably a lot. ALS spokesperson Carol Hamilton told The Boston Globe:

“We are seeing 10 times the number of online donations every day. We are seeing an incredible number of people who didn’t know much about ALS last week and who do today.”

Last weekend, even members of the Kennedy family got in on the fun, even getting octogenarian family matriarch Ethel Kennedy involved. Whom did she nominate? President Barack Obama.

Have you participated in the ice water challenge, or any other YouTube Challenges? Let us know in the comments.

[Image courtesy of: KITV]