What Elkhart County can learn from Ice Bucket Challenge

Elkhart County agencies and individuals could carry over the lessons of the national phenomenon.

Posted on Aug. 24, 2014 at 4:00 a.m.

A viral video challenge has made more than a splash this summer.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has many dousing themselves in cold water for a charitable cause.

The question is where we go from here and what our community can learn from the phenomenon.

In case you haven’t seen all the videos being posted on Facebook, it goes like this:

On camera, someone accepts the challenge put forward to them and calls out the name of two or three others.

In theory, they have 24 hours to accept the challenge or make a $100 donation to the ALS Association.

ALS? Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. “It’s a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord,” according to the ALS Association. Nerves lose the ability to control muscles and the person loses a normal life.

Some have refused the challenge.

Others have questioned the wisdom or point of getting doused in cold water.

But others touched by the disease have posted tearful videos thanking people for the attention and donations.

As of Saturday, Aug. 23, the ALS Association had received $62.5 million in donations in a 3½-week period. It received $2.4 million during the same period last year.

More than 1.2 million people have donated — many of them people who both got wet and made a donation.

It’s the kind of phenomenon nonprofit fundraisers rarely even dare to dream of. It’s likely that organizations will try to replicate and hope it goes viral. Just watch. Organizations in our community and others will take the idea and twist it a bit to draw attention and raise money for a cause.

Good. Bring them on. Seeing this kind of thing in a Facebook feed has more value than most of what’s there.

The needs in our community are great. As we recover for the Great Recession, there are still lines at food pantries and health care centers. Teachers are buying notebooks for their students because they come to class having little.

What made the Ice Bucket Challenge work was its simplicity and several other factors from which we can learn.

• Dare someone to do something out of the ordinary. People don’t usually just douse themselves in cold water. To do that on a hot day and then challenge others to do so worked.

• Combining charity and recognition. Social media allows people to share their lives broadly with others. That takes a bit of ego. Somehow combining a video starring ourselves with a larger cause worked in a big way.

• Having fun. It’s been fun to watch the videos and be surprised by the cold water. That too made it work.

In this community, those giving to organizations are daring them to do good work with the money. The Elkhart County Community Foundation and Kerry’s Kids have each given $250,000 to the Boys & Girls Club of Goshen to build a new kitchen to feed the youth there healthy meals and snacks. That’s generous, but comes with an expectation of results.

Many in our community give privately and anonymously, but those attending fundraisers and buying fiberglass elks or hearts have fun also combine the charity and public giving.

Now that we’ve dried off, made the donation to the ALS Association and posted the video to Facebook, what is it that we can do to help our own community in the same spirit?

We should dare each other to make this community better. We should challenge each other to volunteer, to cheer on our children and to give to our local nonprofits. We should have fun doing it together.

Our community needs its own Ice Bucket Challenge — or a number of them — as we raise awareness of the needs around us and draw together to meet them.

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