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Continued: 'Ice bucket challenge' for ALS shows power of viral fundraising

  • Article by: SAMANTHA SCHMIDT , Star Tribune
  • Last update: August 21, 2014 - 11:58 AM

The videos invite people to use social signaling by choosing and challenging their “coolest” friends to play along. It also provides what Bapna calls “warm glow altruism,” allowing people to show off their support of a charity to their friends. The third mechanism is social obligation: When people get challenged, they feel obligated to help.

“This actually works across the board,” Bapna said. “That’s what’s cool about it ... it really works for everyone.”

Not all Minnesotans are on board, however. Some critics on social media said that participants are probably spending more money on ice than on donations, Grimm said. She noted that more people are challenging their friends to do both as the trend continues.

And like all trends, the ice bucket challenge will soon be nearing its end, Grimm said. “It seems like we reached critical mass and it’s starting to taper off,” she said.

Freking fears that some people might argue that ALS has received a disproportionate amount of funds compared with other worthy causes.

“I do hope we continue to see some of the same support with the other events we hold,” said Freking, whose sister died of ALS. Even so, he’s catching the wave; he planned a mass ice bucket challenge in Rosemount on Wednesday night with about 150 participants.

A cause without a cure

About 30,000 Americans suffer from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which attacks nerve cells and leads to total physical paralysis and death within two to five years.

There is no cure or any treatment that halts or reverses ALS, and only one approved drug has been shown to extend life for about one to two months, Hjelle said.

The massive boost in fundraising will allow the ALS Association to advance research projects it couldn’t afford before, Hjelle said.

The ice bucket challenge also has raised awareness in a way the charity could not have foreseen. “You can hardly talk to anyone who doesn’t know what ALS is anymore,” Freking said.

Otsego resident Andee Robb knows ALS all too well; it killed her mother in 2010. She plans to walk in the annual Twin Cities Walk to Defeat ALS on Sept. 20 at Lake Phalen in St. Paul, but she also took the ice bucket challenge on Saturday, raising $1,000 in 24 hours.

Her niece, Keira Langenbrunner, may likely be the youngest to have a viral video — she took the challenge 72 hours after she was born. Her father, Ryan Langenbrunner, was challenged while in the hospital, so the parents decided to sprinkle a small cup of ice water over Keira’s head, in memory of her late grandmother.

“The unexpected outpouring of support to just draw attention to the disease has been … so overwhelming for us to sit and watch,” Robb said.

Samantha Schmidt • 612-673-4641

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