Why I Didn't Do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

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My news feed has been taken over by friends and family participating in the ALS ice bucket challenge.  I'm impressed by the sheer number of individuals who have stepped up and learned something about ALS, donated, or dumped a bucket of ice water on their heads in solidarity. It's really cool to see so many people rally for one cause.

But I have not participated.


Image: Steven Depolo via Flickr

Not because I don't believe that ALS is an awful and fatal disease or because I'm against finding a cure. I didn't participate because I donate time and money to organizations that are equally important. I look at this challenge as a way to encourage philanthropy in those who may not have considered giving before while providing coverage on a disease that many know very little about.

Across the globe, reactions to the ice bucket challenge are mixed. In India where water is scarce, a challenge like this one is not feasible. Instead, they created their own philanthropic version aimed at feeding the hungry: the Rice Bucket Challenge. Participants are encouraged to fill a bucket with rice and to donate it to a person in need. If you can't find a person, donate to an organization that feeds the hungry. To date, nearly 9000 lbs of rice have been donated.

Matt Damon took another approach. Rather than refusing the challenge in the name of his organization water.org, which works to bring clean water to the 345 million individuals without access, he used water from his toilet. Damon made it clear that water from his toilet is still cleaner than water in many under served communities in developing nations.

Then there is the eye-opening infographic created by Julia Belluz and published at Vox.com, that shows us how much work is needed to support the organizations who are moving towards saving lives in America. $257.85 million was raised in one year for breast cancer research. Breast cancer killed 41,374 people that year. On the other hand, we only raised $51.4 million towards heart disease research. But that was our number one killer, at 596,577 deaths.

$22.9 million has been raised so far for ALS research. Between 5000 -- 6000 people will die from ALS this year. By comparison, only $3.2 million was raised for suicide prevention. But almost 40,000 people will take their own lives.

It's not that ALS research is not a worthy cause; it's just that there are many worthy causes, and we're not always donating our resources to combat the most prevalent diseases.

I'll leave you with those thoughts. I encourage you to find a place in your personal life where you feel passionate and connected. Donate your time or resources if you can. It will make a difference.

Dr. Pragati Gusmano (@DoctorPragati) is a naturopathic doctor who believes that a happy + healthy life is the best medicine. You can read more on her blog, Simple Medicine.


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