Donations pour in, bucket by bucket

Donations pour in, bucket by bucket

A fun publicity campaign to help raise funds for the ALS Association in the US has gone viral and raised $66.6 million in four weeks Superstar footballer David Beckham has done it.

Pop star Taylor Swift had model-actress Jaime King and a group of friends do it with her. The world's richest man Bill Gates posted a video of himself doing it on Aug 15. And just last week, former American president George Bush joined the Bucket A-List when his wife, Laura, poured a bucket of ice water on him.

Some of the biggest names in sports, business and entertainment have taken up the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, a publicity campaign to raise awareness and money for the non-profit ALS Association in the United States.

The campaign, which has gone viral in recent weeks, challenges participants to dump buckets of ice and/or water over their heads, post the pictures on social media and nominate others to do the same or donate money to the association. Many do the stunt and donate.

In Singapore, celebrities who have gotten wet for the cause include footballer Fandi Ahmad; DJs from Class 95FM Bobby Tonelli, Yasminne Cheng, Joe Augustin, Glenn Ong, Jean Danker, Mike Kasem and Jeremy Ratnam; 100.3FM DJs including Huang Wenhong and Christie Ng; and actresses Rebecca Lim and Jade Seah.

MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC Teo Ser Luck, who was nominated by six individuals and groups, told SundayLife! he would take up the challenge today with a group of people from his constituency. They will be donating to a local charity.

Fly Entertainment artist Tonelli, 38, said the DJs' donations amounted to $950 and they would be giving the money to the ALS Association in the US.

Other celebrities choose to donate to local charities. Actress Lim, 27, posted on her Instagram account last Monday that she would donate 10 cents for every like of her post between the time of writing the post and the execution of her challenge a day later. The post gained more than 10,000 likes. She will be donating at least $1,000 to the Singapore Cancer Society.

Seah, 31, said she initially had reservations about accepting the challenge. "I didn't understand how it would help the world and I don't like getting wet."

But after reading about the ALS Association, she decided it was for "a worthy cause" and did the challenge last Tuesday. She will be donating to the Society for the Physically Disabled.

ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease - named after the famous American baseball player who died from the disease in 1941 - is a neurological disorder where nerves in the brain and spinal cord are steadily destroyed. It leads to paralysis of the body although the mind remains sharp. It is an incurable ailment and many die within five years of diagnosis.

It was an ALS patient in the US, Mr Pete Frates from Massachusetts, and his friend Corey Griffin - who died in a diving accident on Aug 16 - who came up with the idea of using the challenge to raise awareness of the disease on July 29.

After the campaign went viral on social media, donations have been pouring in and the association has received US$53.3 million (S$66.6 million) between July 29 and last Friday, compared to US$2.2 million during the same period last year.

An association spokesman told SundayLife!: "We are both overjoyed and overwhelmed by the response."

Why has this publicity campaign become so successful in a matter of weeks? Director of public relations firm Asia PR Werkz, Ms Ginny-Ann Oh, 40, said the challenge is simple to do and asking people to post videos of it taps into people's desire to be seen to be doing good.

Professor Mohan Dutta, head of the National University of Singapore's department of communications and new media in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, said the challenge has caught on because of its "fun factor".

"A collective identity is also forged with the issue through social media, which connects people across spaces and cultural contexts," he said. The participation of celebrities also "magnifies the message", he added.

Even as more people join the campaign, a backlash has started. Naysayers have criticised it for wasting water and encouraging narcissism by asking people to post videos of themselves.

Prof Dutta also cautioned that donors ought to consider how their money will be spent and whether the money will indeed improve the lives of the people the campaign seeks to impact.

The ALS Association's spokesman said the campaign has given visibility to the disease. He said: "With increased awareness and unprecedented financial support comes incredible opportunity. We can now consider innovative projects that have been unfunded to date as we continue to deliver in the areas of research and care services to patients and their families."

In response to the wet blankets, Fly Entertainment artist George Young, 34, said: "These people should look at the donations going to ALS. Yes, the stunt in itself is silly, but it is attached to something meaningful."

SundayLife! understands that since the ice bucket challenge has caught on here, the National Neuroscience Institute has been receiving requests from people who want to donate to the Motor Neuron Disease Support Group, which it is affiliated to.

The institute's spokesman says it is not involved with the challenge and is not accepting public donations generated from it.

One company in Singapore can testify to the reach of the campaign. A recruitment and executive search company called ALS International (Singapore) has been receiving about 10 calls a day in the past week from people who want to know more about the ice bucket challenge and how they can donate.

The receptionist, who declined to be named, said with a laugh: "We now know all about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge as a result of all the phone calls."


This article was first published on August 24, 2014.
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