Saturday, August 23, 2014

The "Ice Bucket Challenge" for ALS: Why I'm Not Participating

This isn't going to start out as a popular notion, but I hope you stick with me on it; I am not participating in the ALS "Ice Bucket" Challenge. I have been challenged a couple of times and I will make a donation to show that I'm not a bad sport. I just have a few reasons why I won't do this and what I will do in the spirit of this "pop culture" charity meme.

While I hate that anyone gets a crippling disease like ALS, I only know two names of people that have (or have had) it and nobody that I know personally. Lou Gehrig and Stephen Hawking. I don't know anyone with ALS ever. It's not personal to me. Yes, I know that I don't have to be effected to care, but nor do I have to dump ice water on my head to show that I care or to what I believe is to get OUT of actually giving MORE money to the charity. 

Nobody gave a shit about donating to ALS before it became a celebrity phenomenon (see the chart below). The numbers are incredible in how much has been given this year as opposed to last and I'm not saying it's a bad thing. It is not. I would love to see ALS eliminated, or at least for there to be better ways to help those that live with the disease. I just want to donate my money to charities and/or research that are more personal to me and more pressing for humanity. At any given time in the USA, about 30,000 people have ALS. About 20,000 people, with more than half being children, starve to death every day on our planet. Every day, 1,500 Americans die of cancer. Around 29 million Americans have diabetes. 600,000 people in the US die of heart disease every year. More than 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimers. Again, I'm not diminishing ALS or any contribution towards its treatment or eradication, but I wanted to show that there are some major problem areas that are a far more pressing concern for American's and humanity.

I am absolutely not having a go at anyone that gives or even does the ice bucket thing. Having more people that care about the condition of other humans is a great thing, no matter the reason and/or gimmick to perpetuate that sense of caring. Like the "Live Strong" bracelet and pink ribbons for breast cancer, gimmicks work in raising money. Hopefully this ice bucket meme will lead to the fall of ALS, but I believe in the long run it will be just a blip on the radar for ALS donations. As you can see on the chart above, donations are up in a spectacular way (again, not a bad thing), but I am wondering what that will look like next year or the year after. Will the donations continue or will they fall off as people become bored of seeing people dump water on their heads?

In the spirit of having said all that, I lay down a challenge to anyone reading this blog;

Over the course of your next four paychecks (or couple of months), find a single charity, a couple of charities, four different charities, or identify family/friends that are needy and donate something to them. It doesn't have to be money. It could be time. Canned goods. Clothing. Whatever can help another person out.

 If you are strapped for money and don't have a great deal to spare, give a couple of bucks to a homeless guy or buy a needy person a value meal.  Go through your clothes or your kids clothes and take them to a local church or charitable organization that helps the poor. Find a friend or family that you know is in real need and take them some groceries. Call a friend that may be in need that doesn't involve money and give them 10 or 15 minutes of your time...or take them out for coffee and let them know you care. 

If you have the means, then stroke out a few checks to a charity that may be relevant to your life, grab a card off the Angel Tree this Christmas, send money to people researching renewable energy or rain forest preservation, sponsor a family......anything you want. Anything that you care about that could make even the smallest impact. And yes, your giving to ALS is a part of that, but there is much more we could do for others that doesn't involve doing it because it's the flavor of the month. 

Just give something back. Your time. Your presence. Your voice. Your money. I am linking in a website that lists a lot of charities and their grades on how they use the money donated. You can find something that may be meaningful to you, click that link and find out how to give. 

I will be first up to show I'm not going to be a hypocrite. I will donate to ALS, because I want my friend (B.K.M.) to know that I am not waving off his challenge without acknowledgment. I think that his taking the Ice Bucket Challenge has covered me. He suffered so I wouldn't have to. My family will do our usual Angel Tree thing also. In addition, I will donate from each of my next four paychecks to the following charities, each of which strike a chord with me for one reason or another;

Sending my first donation out today in honor of my late "Uncle Richard".

(in my youngest daughter's name)

So there it is! The gauntlet has been thrown down. I challenge anyone reading this to make even what you would consider to be the smallest of a difference in the world. A lot of small differences can make for big change! Will you accept THAT challenge?

"Everything'd be great. Everything'd be good.
If everybody gave, like everybody could."
Jim James (My Morning Jacket)