Cold cash just keeps washing in from ALS ice bucket challenge; donations near $100 mn

Aug 28 2014, 10:06 IST
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McLaren Mercedes team members dump buckets of ice water onto F1 driver Lewis Hamilton as he takes part in the 'ALS Ice Bucket Challenge'. (Reuters) McLaren Mercedes team members dump buckets of ice water onto F1 driver Lewis Hamilton as he takes part in the 'ALS Ice Bucket Challenge'. (Reuters)
SummaryViral fundraising campaign for ailment has put ALS group into top ranks for medical charity donations.

In the couple of hours it took an official from the ALS Association to return a reporter's call for comment, the group's ubiquitous ''ice bucket challenge'' had brought in a few million more dollars.

Approaching $100 million, the viral fundraising campaign for the ailment also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease has put the ALS group into the top ranks for medical charity donations. Since the end of July, the money has been sloshing in at a rate of about $9 million a week. Last year, from July 29 to Aug. 26, the group raised just $2.6 million.

It's caught everyone off-guard, none more so than the ALS Association folks. But they know this is likely a one-off phenomenon, and the group now faces the task of spending all that money wisely. Research, care and advocacy are the group's three main missions - but officials say they don't know yet exactly how they'll use the astonishing windfall.

''I think even if I or any PR person at either a non-profit or a for-profit company had all of the PR dollars in the world to invest, no one would have come up with this idea,'' says Carrie Munk, the association's spokeswoman. ''We realize there are responsibilities that come with being good stewards of these dollars.''

Part of what's surprising is that ALS - or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - is one of those ''small'' diseases. It is a neurodegenerative disease that causes paralysis and death, and the association estimates that about 5,600 new cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.

This campaign hasn't exactly put the charity in the same neighborhood as giants like the American Cancer Society or the American Heart Association- which raised $889 million and $529 million last year, respectively. But it's moving up quickly.

The basic rules of the ice bucket challenge are: Someone issues a challenge - that you allow yourself to be doused with a bucket of ice and water, like American coaches who win big games. Then, the challengee has 24 hours to make a $100 donation to the ALS Association or submit to the water torture. Or do both. And then you challenge someone else.

In the last month, everyone from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates to former President George W. Bush has been doused. The Internet and airwaves are awash in videos of people taking the challenge.

Jonah Berger, author of the book ''Contagious: Why

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