How to make the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge more meaningful to your child

When I first heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, my initial reaction was one of distaste.  I'm all for raising awareness for causes you care about, but I didn't like the "hey look at me, I'm so cool" part, and I didn't like the "take the challenge or donate" part.  It seemed like a case of empty actions -- if you don't donate, all you have to do is pour a bucket of ice water over your head, and you feel good about yourself because you think you've done something to help the cause?  Instead of buying a bag of ice, why not donate that money to ALS research?  Here in California, we have another issue -- we're in a severe drought, so it's a waste of water.

But there's no denying that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a gigantic success.   It has become the poster child for a viral marketing campaign.  Everyone's doing it, including famous people like Donatella Versace, Cookie Monster, Kermit the Frog, Tina Fey, George Bush, Anna Wintour, Homer Simpson, and every actor on the planet.  Some have come up with their own twist (the Foo Fighters did a remake of Carrie, and ALS sufferer Stephen Hawking asked his children to volunteer for him). Some have come up with unique and powerful substitutes for ice water -- money (Charlie Sheen), bullets (Orlando Jones), breast milk (Olivia Wilde), toilet water (Matt Damon), even pee! -- to highlight other important causes.  Even other causes are coming up with similar challenges (India's Rice Bucket Challenge, Ivory Coast's Lather Against Ebola are just 2 examples).  Most importantly, the ALS Association (ALSA) has raised over $100 million this past month, compared to $2.8 million for the same period last year.  It's difficult to argue with those numbers!

When 3Po told me he wanted to do the Ice Bucket Challenge, I was conflicted. He asked me several times over a 2-week period while I hemmed and hawed, but in the end, I didn't have the heart to say no.   He knows a lot about ALS because he did a biography project on Stephen Hawking, and he wanted to take part.  He was willing to donate a portion of his allowance towards ALS research, and he agreed to stand in a flowerbed so the water wouldn't go to waste.  We came up with a list of DO's and DON'Ts to make the Ice Bucket Challenge more meaningful, and not just an exercise in vanity:

  • Pour the water onto your patio or driveway!  It's a waste of water!  
  • Jump on the Ice Bucket Challenge bandwagon just to show your friends how cool you are, or to gain more followers on your YouTube channel!
  • Talk with your kids about ALS and the Ice Bucket Challenge -- what the disease is, what the donated money will be used for, why the Ice Bucket Challenge has become such a success, what lessons you can learn from the challenge for fundraising and other kinds of campaigns.
  • Come up with a creative way to save water!  Use alternatives to water, like sand or confetti or styrofoam peanuts.  If you really want to use water, stand in a flowerbed so your plants can get watered.  Or stand in the bathtub before your kids have a bath.  Or stand in a big bucket so you can reuse the water.  
  • Explain in your video why you are doing the Ice Bucket Challenge.
  • Donate some money towards ALS research in addition to doing the Ice Bucket Challenge
  • Let your viewers know you have donated, and include a plea to your viewers to make their own donations towards ALS research.

Here's 3Po's Ice Bucket Challenge video:

And here's Jammy's video (he was nominated twice, by 3Po and by a friend):

The Ice Bucket Challenge turned out to be an exercise in creativity, a fun way to connect with friends online, a silly memory to keep in our video archives (in 25 years we're going to watch this and laugh at their expressions), and a good lesson about compassion and giving. I'm glad they did it!

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