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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014

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I participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
I participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Why I did the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

I participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge this week, and it went out over Facebook and Twitter, but I’m fortunate to have larger platform here at OnMilwaukee.com to explain why.

I’m in my early 30s. My life has been affected directly by the following:

Dengue Fever
ALS
Alzheimer’s
Non-smoker’s lung cancer
Brain cancer
Lung cancer
Suicide
Heart disease
Prostate cancer
Breast cancer
Driving under the influence

I first heard about the ice bucket challenge through a cousin, who did it to raise money for VH1’s "Save The Music" campaign. He’s in college now due in large part to his high school music programs. That was pretty cool. Apparently, others attached their own charities to the challenge along the way, too.

Then, in the last month or so, the challenge was attached to ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

As someone whose life has been directly affected by it, this campaign has been heartwarming and reinvigorating. So many people now know of the disease, are talking about it, and donating to its research and awareness efforts.

But, we’ve also seen the inevitable backlash to raising money for charity online. I get it. What helped ALSA.org raise millions upon millions upon millions of dollars over the last few weeks are the same avenues for snark, cynicism and skepticism.

You can’t have one internet "thing" without the other.

But I wonder though – for those trolling their friends or followers for participating, or hating on celebrities they don’t like, do you do that for all campaigns of awareness?

Is one disease or global issue more important than another? Are the hundreds of thousands of new donors to ALSA.org wrong for choosing to donate now, because they participated in an ice bucket challenge fueled by social media and not before when they likely didn't know this disease existed?

Maybe.

But, if you do then I can't help but think you’re often the one standing on the edges calling out the fouls while never actually stepping between the lines.

Because if you were, if you were actually invested in raising an awareness for, or funding research for, a certain cause close to your heart – whatever it may be – you’d be looking at what’s happened over the last month and say, holy $#%, that’s amazing.

You’d be impressed. You’d be proud. You’d notice how many people rallied around a disease most probably had never heard of before.

I know I am. Alzheimer’s awareness and research is also near and dear to my heart. Back in February, a famous person decided to speak up about it, and went about it in a "traditional" way – Seth Rogen went before Congress.

His jokes made the rounds for about a day or two, but what happened? Maybe some people donated. Maybe some people Googled Alzheimer’s. But I know I didn’t read about millions dollars being donated to fighting the disease.

Snark’s cool, and can be funny. The problem is so many others do it, and did it first, and likely did it better that you’re the one late to that party and end up looking crass as opposed to witty.

Cynicism is fine. It’s a tough world. I’m cynical, too. I’ve stated my unhappiness with the Susan G. Komen Foundation for "encouraging" other non-profits to stop using "for the cure" in their fundraising efforts, and for the National Football League’s sorry attempt at donating proceeds from its colored merchandise.

Skepticism is always warranted. I donated to the Red Cross when Haiti was devastated by an earthquake and was infuriated when I saw that my money was tied up in bureaucracy.

(That's just one of the reasons why I donate to (and fund raise for) to a small group of people who help provide clean water, education and medical services in that country.)

But when I look at friends who have done this challenge, those who challenged their kids – I guarantee you they had to ask what ALS was, a parent had to explain it, and why it was important to do this – that’s a net win, whether my buddies donated zero dollars or $200.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it, by any means. I really don't care about your motives, your concerns or why you're skeptical and/or cynical about this whole thing. That's you, and that's cool.

But, for those of you who do disagree with this clearly successful, fun and community-building method built largely online that has raised millions of dollars, I have a separate challenge for you:

  1. Donate to ALSA.org (or the Les Turner Foundation or Matt White’s CureALS efforts) and embed a copy of your donation receipt. After all, you don’t need to dump water on your head to donate, right?
  2. Let me know when you begin your national (if not global) awareness and fundraising campaign for what you feel is a worthy cause – in the manner in which you deem appropriate, of course – and raise millions in the span of a month.

Then, you can see how joyous those people are, how important the money really is, and how greatly you impacted everyone involved.

When you do – I won’t crap on you, your effort or how you went about it. I’ll donate, even. And applaud.

And don’t worry. I’ll wait.

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