It’s only natural to be skeptical anytime a new viral charity trend hits the internet. Our skepticism started around 2012 (remember Kony?) and never really left. So in 2014, when the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge took over the internet it wasn’t too much of a stretch for us to assume that no real change would come from a bunch of people dumping cold water on themselves.
To most people’s surprise, the challenge actually raised a lot of awareness for ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, with over 17 million people uploading videos of themselves participating. The challenge itself was also a smart one. Dumping freezing water on yourself is meant to simulate the cold effects ALS sufferers feel constantly as the nerves in their spinal cord and brain gradually deteriorate. So it seemed like the challenge did exactly what it was supposed to do. Plus it was hilarious to watch our friends and favourite celebrities writhe around after an icy dousing.
Over the course of summer 2014, over $115 million were donated to the ALS Association and over half of that was dedicated to research into the disease. One million of those dollars were assigned specifically to a project at the University of Massachusetts, Project MinE, which was working on identifying the gene responsible for causing ALS. Now, two years later, they’ve found it.
Locating this gene (NEK1, if you’re interested) is a huge step forward for ALS research and will be crucial for developing therapies to live with the disease and perhaps even an eventual cure.
And it wouldn’t have been possible without that crazy trend. Dr. Lucie Bruijin, Chief Scientist at the ALS Association said, ‘The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge enabled the ALS Association to invest in Project MinE’s work to create large biorepositories of ALS biosamples that are designed to allow exactly this kind of research and to produce exactly this kind of result.” In other words, the money that the Ice Bucket Challenge raised allowed them the financial freedom to conduct experiments at the large scale they needed to get results.
Way to go, internet! Some good has finally come from your crazy viral antics.
Check out this compilation of the best Ice Bucket Challenges out there: