#IceBucketChallenge splashes NEPA

Why this freezing challenge is the hottest topic of the summer

August 21. 2014 5:43PM
By Justin Brown The Weekender

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If you're one of those people annoyed by seeing endless Facebook statuses reminding you that you're not engaged or a parent yet, your prayers may have been answered when the social media phenomena known as the #icebucketchallenge surfaced a few weeks ago.
It seems impossible to check your News Feed, or even eavesdrop a conversation in a WalMart parking lot, without being reminded that you might be one nomination away from dumping a bucket over your head that is filled with freezing, icy water.
Whether you think it's the greatest thing to happen since the creation of Nutella or the dumbest thing to reach fruition since the renewal of “Keeping up with the Kardashians” for a tenth season, the #icebucketchallenge has everyone feeling a certain type of way.
Why is literally everyone talking about it?
Who the hell is responsible for this?
Most importantly, why is this freezing challenge the hottest thing to happen this summer?
For starters, it's for a good cause.
The challenge of dumping icy water on yourself, posting it to social media and nominating others to accept the challenge has evolved in just a few short weeks from a modest stunt in the professional golf circuit as a way to support pet charities and grown into a huge fundraising coup for patients and organizations with ALS.
Technically called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is an incurable neurological disease that causes nerve cells to break down and die.
When golfer Chris Kennedy did the #icebucketchallenge on July 15, he challenged his cousin Jeanette Senerchia of Pelham, N.Y., whose husband, Anthony, has been a victim of ALS for over a decade.
When Senerchia accepted the challenge, the magic of social networking showed its powers.
Senerchia's Facebook network connected the challenge with another ALS victim. Within a few days it spread to Pete Frates, a 29-year-old former Boston College baseball player who has been suffering with the crippling disease for the past two years. Once a vibrant college athlete, Frates can't move, lost his ability to talk and is fed through a feeding tube.
That's when the #icebucketchallenge for ALS awareness took off. When several professional baseball players who knew Frates from college stepped up to the plate to show their support, it started a viral sensation that grew to include politicians, renowned business leaders and celebrities.
While notable participants have went on to include Justin Timberlake, Jimmy Fallon, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Oprah, to name a few, even everyday people throughout NEPA have shown support.
“Within 12 hours of posting my video of me doing the #icebucketchallenge, over $500 in confirmed donations to ALS came out of my friends who would not have done so without the challenge being created,” said Weekender's “Girl Talk” columnist Melissa Hughes of Wilkes-Barre.
“I think the ice-bucket challenge is an amazing way to embrace the power of social media for something positive,” Hughes said.
Though the challenge has even seen “the Oprah effect”, not everybody is warm to the idea of the #icebucketchallenge.
While everyone has seen people they haven't talked to since high school pouring buckets of ice water over their heads, comical Meme's have been surfacing in opposition to clean water being wasted to avoid raising money for charity.
Aside from the jokes, there have also been people who have not accepted the challenge nor paid up for declining to show support.
WNEP-TV's king of fluff television, morning reporter Ryan Leckey, ignored his nomination for the challenge.
Leckey did prioritize the time, however, to share the results of his social media quiz determining what his CrossFit spirit animal is on Facebook. The reporter, who also has an album available on iTunes featuring covers of songs made popular by the likes of Judy Garland and Adele, revealed his spirit animal is a shark.
Leckey may be a “shark,” but some on Facebook questioned whether he'd only take a bite out of charities that boost his own profile, like Ryan's Run.
“I'm kind of surprised that he has actually not taken action in this because he is usually showing support for a lot of things,” Cody Roxby of Scranton said.
“I believe he's not doing it because it's not benefitting his image like his charity Ryan's Run does. I believe if he started this he would be all about it, but since it's already blown up he wants no part of it,” Roxby said.
Meanwhile, female impersonator Estella Sweet of Wilkes-Barre followed in Leckey's footsteps by not accepting her nomination.
“I personally won't be part of the ice bucket challenge because I don't think it's a productive way to raise funds,” Sweet said.
That's why Sweet started her own awareness campaign, the '24 Hours to Make a Difference Challenge', proposing that the people challenged make a difference without wasting natural resources.
“Americans think nothing of being wasteful and then we wonder why half the world hates us,” Sweet said.
“Volunteer at a shelter, clean up a local park, collect aluminum cans and donate the money to charity,” Sweet suggests to those who partake in her challenge.
Though Sweet admits the thought behind the #icebucketchallenge is “positive in nature,” she insists it is an “ingenious marketing device that relies solely on people being followers.”
Love it or hate it, when it comes to determining whether or not the social media experiment is doing any good for the cause, numbers can't lie.
As of Monday, August 18, The ALS Association had received $15.6 million in donations compared to $1.7 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 17), according to a press release from the organization.
“I find it hard to believe that anyone can think this challenge is not raising awareness,” said Christie Garrecht, founder of Move For Those Who Can't, University of Scranton's ALS club.
Garrecht, who thinks the challenge “shows how a simple concept can do so much on every level” is impressed that it has “reached all levels of society” while raising millions of dollars.
“As a club not only do we raise awareness and funds for ALS research, but we also have an ALS patient support program,” Garrecht said.
Move For Those Who Can't creates greeting cards for ALS patients and their loved ones and paper tissue flowers since most ALS patients can't have real flowers in their hospital rooms.
“This year we purchased a speaker system for an ALS patient to use for his communication application on his phone. We are always looking to expand this program and to help out as many ALS patients as we possibly can in the local area. Even a simple card makes a patient's day and lets them know that someone is doing something in order to help fight this terrible disease,” Garrecht said.
At the end the day it can't be denied that the social media stunt is paying off.
Are you buying into it?
What is your take on the #icebucketchallenge? Share your thoughts with us at facebook.com/theweekender and Twitter @wkdr.

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