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Students take part in the social media frenzy that has raised millions of dollars for ALS


The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge  has spread around the world faster than any disease could.

The fundraiser for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis , known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, has raised $94.3 million as of this Wednesday, according to the ALS Association . The campaign has taken off almost exponentially in the recent week, with fundraising totals for the ALS Association jumping from $22 million to more than $90 million from Aug. 19 to Aug. 27.

In each video, friends nominate friends, creating an exponential domino effect of ice bucket videos and donations to the charity. Getting called out publicly on social media encourages people to take part in the fundraising.


Video: The State News takes on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The fundraising strategy appeals directly to a millennial generation addicted to social media, and even MSU officials and public figures aren’t missing out on the fun. Tom Izzo  completed the challenge. As did  Marsha Rappley, the dean of MSU’s College of Human Medicine, who said the fundraiser has provided a notable shot in the arm for medical research.

“The funding for research really has diminished over the last 10 or 15 years,” Rappley said. “There are diseases that go without attention from funding agencies because there is just not enough money to go around.”

Rappley said this pushes fundraising associations to come up with a creative way to raise money.

“Now everyone has to resort to something clever to bump up funding,” she said. “And the ALSA found a fun way to make it happen.”

Students up for the challenge

It has become nearly impossible to scroll through MSU students’ Instagram or Facebook feeds without being flooded with videos of Spartans dumping buckets of freezing water on their heads.

General management sophomore Kirsten Dozeman took the challenge this summer, praising the campaign for its call to donate — even if you do film a video, after filming, the nominee is expected to donate $10.

Athletes are also doing their part. MSU quarterbacks Connor Cook and Damion Terry  accepted a dare from the University of Michigan’s quarterback Shane Morris to complete the challenge.

General management junior Kendall Blanchard credited online culture for the challenge’s success.

“We live in a very socially immersive world with lots of technology that makes it possible for trends like this (the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge) to go viral,” Blanchard said. “The videos are pretty funny to make and watch so I think most people want to get in on what the hip new thing is. And all the attention has naturally brought a lot of potential donors.”


Though the campaign has received worldwide attention, it has not been met with unanimous support. Detractors argue that the online videos are annoying, overexposed or downright narcissistic.

Director of the Interdisciplinary Program for Empathy and Altruism Research at Indiana University Sara Konrath says though there isn’t any official data yet on these types of fundraising efforts, she questions some individuals’ rationale for participating in the challenge.

“There are many, many people who tirelessly give their time for years and decades without ever posting a video of it online,” she said. “Some people that are going to do it this way probably have different motives.”

Konrath said her guess is that there is something “self-promoting” by shooting a video and posting it.

Nick Brown, media and information junior, said he wonders if the money being donated to ALS will mean that those who donated will be less inclined to give to other causes.

“It’s for a good cause, but it’s not that big of a cause,” said Brown, who has not done the challenge. “There are bigger causes of death that are more prevalent than this. So I’d want to see some of that money going toward more research and bigger killers than just one.”

Another question that has arisen is how the windfall of money will be spent by the ALSA. According to ALSA Communications Director Greg Cash, the organization is not yet close to deciding where the funds will go.

“Over the next weeks or even months, we will be deciding how we can use these funds to further our mission of ALS research, providing care services for those with ALS, and public policy efforts,” Cash said in an email. “Beyond that, we have not formulated plans.”

Though some may find it annoying or self-serving, the ice bucket challenge is undeniable in its success. It’s not clear for how long, but the challenge is likely to continue to clog news feeds.

“Dumping a bottle of ice water on yourself has nothing to do with ALS at all, but it’s clearly capitalizing on the medium of social media,” Konrath said. “It’s the medium, and not the message.”

McKayley Gourley contributed to this report.

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