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ALS Challenge Brings Buckets of Ice and Charity to YU

Since early 2014, people all over North America have been issuing each other nominations in order to raise money for various charities and organizations, from Feed The Deed to Chug a Coke for the IDF. The big shift to ALS and ice buckets only came in late July when Peter Frates, former captain of the Boston College baseball team, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2012, took the Ice Bucket Challenge in Fenway Park. With the Challenge, in which participants film themselves dumping water and ice over their heads, already becoming a sensation, Frates’ video helped it go viral. As the summer rolled on, the buckets kept pouring, though some who have observed filmings have been less than thrilled. One of the more realistic complaints have been that participants are being “self-congratulatory,” as Michael Hogan wrote in The Telegraph and are focusing more on the fun rather than the altruism. Nevertheless the challenge has been embraced all across the nation.

In fact, this viral activity has come all the way to YU and the Heights, as President Joel, Vice Provost Scott Goldberg, Rabbi Brander, Wilf Student Council leaders and many others have accepted the challenge. In response to the critics of the Challenge, President Joel stated, “It’s almost not worth responding to critics. This is an opportunity to raise the consciousness of tons of people to an illness that the public vaguely knows about…Frankly, donating is supposed to be a joyous endeavor, and the Ice Bucket Challenge has been very effective at getting people to be aware of philanthropy as something that is important and can be fun as well. I hope we move more and more towards a world where people see the responsibility of giving as a joyous one that doesn't have to be limited to writing a check.”

Dr. Goldberg similarly explained his views on the movement. “[The Challenge] reminds us all not to take ourselves too seriously and that in the process we can make a difference. For me, this was about embracing the reality that we do not have a cure for many diseases, including ALS; [these diseases] are far more challenging than having a bucket of ice water poured over my head.” Rabbi Bradner added that“helping to wipe out illnesses like ALS, engaging in activities that have helped to raise 94 million dollars in the past month is also part of our mandate as Torah Jews.”

One YU student who also took the challenge told The Commentator, “Let’s look at the facts, how much money has been collected for ALS with this challenge?” Indeed, regardless of where one stands on the debate, there is no ignoring the fact that as of September 7th, the ALS Association thanked the public for raising over $110.1 million through the challenge. Over the same period last year, the Assoication raised under $2 million.

As the Challenge continues into the school year and the cooler months, only time will tell if the ice bucket dumping will continue around campus and around the world.