Why the Kennedys Just Challenged Obama to Dump a Bucket of Ice Water Over His Head

By
Matt Lauer accepts the challenge Photo: Virginia Sherwood/NBC

Teen heartthrob and The Fault in Our Stars actor Ansel Elgort did it shirtless. Ethel Kennedy just challenged President Obama to do it. Don’t call it a desperate plea for internet attention — it’s the nouveau version of Icing, and it’s for charity.

The Ice Bucket Challenge seemed to hit critical mass over the weekend, when Facebook was flooded with videos of users challenging friends to dump ice water over their heads or donate to a charity dedicated to ALS research. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, "is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord," according to the ALS Association.

The Challenge kicked off last month when two ALS sufferers, Yonkers native Patrick Quinn and Beverly, Massachusetts, resident Pete Frates, teamed up and began posting videos using the hashtag #IceBucketChallenge on their Facebook pages. The duo wanted to raise awareness about ALS, and, Frates said, “exposure like this is what the ALS community needs so we can even attempt to find a cure and reversal for people living with this insidious disease.”

The trend is certainly raising awareness: ALS was the No. 4 hottest search on Google on Sunday, and today it's still a Google trending topic. And though the concept has echoes of Kony 2012 armchair activism, a representative from the ALS Association said the organization raised a total of $1.35 million between July 29 and August 11, 2014, a dramatic increase from the $22,000 raised during that time frame in 2013. Local donations have increased as well.

"Since Friday night, we've received over $10,000 worth of donations, and that's not typical," said Dorine Gordon, president and CEO of the ALS Association Greater New York Chapter. "Just this morning, we had a new team sign up [for the Long Island Walk to Defeat ALS] calling themselves the Ice Bucket Challenge Team."

Meanwhile, celebrities like Elizabeth Banks and rich people like New York Giants president John Mara continue to jump on the bandwagon.

Unfortunately, as is the case with so many charitably focused memes, the message about ALS awareness may get drowned out by the din of social media obsessives clamoring for likes. As one Facebook friend bravely declared as he raised the ice bucket over his head: “Oh, this is for like, ASL, or something.”