Tag Archives: Charity

ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge: An Imperfect Place

The devil hides down amongst the cubes*.

You’d have to have not paid your Internet bill over the last couple of months to miss out on knowing about the ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge thing.

It started with some professional athletes, not — as myth would have it — an ALS patient. The challenge was to either be filmed dumping a bucket of ice over your head or give money to a charity of your choice. It morphed from there.

And promptly went viral.

Which led to thousands of people filming themselves while having a bucket of ice dumped on their heads while challenging others to do the same. In fact, my dad and I even watched one of those happen poolside at Chabil Mar, a resort in the Central American country of Belize. It was a few weeks ago, before this really hit big so we had no idea what it was about.

Those last four words there. . . That’s what this is about.

So far this post, I’ve written a lot of words about the Ice-Bucket Challenge and mentioned ALS only twice. And never said what ALS really is.

Better known as Lou Gherig’s Disease, named for the New York Yankees baseball player who contracted the disease and thereby showed the bits of the country that liked baseball and were paying attention that the disease existed, ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a progressive, degenerative disease that gradually destroy neurons (nerve cells) in the brain and spinal column. Over time, the disease annihilates voluntary control over the body’s muscles, robbing the person with the disease of the ability to move, to speak, to breathe. For some patients, the end point of the disease is total paralysis of the body. And the worst part is that their mind still is active and aware and trapped in a decayed body incapable of responding to anything.

ALS is, to put it mildly, a horrifying disease. Donating money to help fund research into a cure or a way to slow the progression of the disease is definitely a worthy cause. (Those who want to donate without resorting to dumping ice water on their heads can do so at the ALSA gift page.)

So, given all that, I should be all for the ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge, right, dudes?. After all, as of Friday, the challenges have resulted in the ALS Association receiving more than $41 million in donations.

My issue is with all the challengers who do nothing but dump ice on their own heads, laugh, record it and then post it to some social media site, daring others to follow suit. They don’t know what ALS is. They don’t donate to any sort of charitable institution, including the ALS Association, and only do it because everyone else is doing it. 

After all, the challenge is donate to the ALSA OR dump a bucket of ice on their heads.

I talked about this on Facebook and was called out by several of my friends there (actual friends who I actually know) for dumping (no pun intended) on the whole idea. They focused on the positives, on the donations that were raised, which are substantial.

I thought about it and talked it over with Zippy the Travelin’ Boy, who has some similar issues with the challenge. While Zippy the Travelin’ Boy still takes issue with it (mostly, I think, because it’s popular and he likes to be a contrarian) and, to be honest, so do I, it all led to the realization that I was focusing too much on the negative.

I’ll pause now for your shocked intake of breath.

This was brought home to me — literally — when Hyper Lad walked up to me with a hang-dog look, holding a bucket of ice and a video camera.

Before I would participate, he and I had a long talk about what amyotrophic lateral sclerosis actually does and agreed that he would donate money to the ALS Association.

Only then could I laugh at him when his oldest brother, Sarcasmo, poured cube-filled, ice-cold water over the young dude’s head.

Yes, in a perfect world, Hyper Lad’s fellow shiverers would be donating to worthy charitable causes on a regular basis and also donating their time, sweat and effort. They’d already know what ALS really is, why we should support research toward a cure, and be doing the ice thing only to help raise awareness and get more people to donate money to worthy charities.

But, as the estimable John Bender once said: “Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place.”

And it’s true.

Screws do fall out all the time.

I guess I’ll just have to live with the idea that people are dumping ice on their heads just because everybody else is doing it. And also some of them might actually understand that this is being used to help raise money to combat an appalling disease.

It’s not perfect, but that’ll do, pig. That’ll do.

As if the world were waiting for my approval anyway.

*Yes, this was an imperfect metaphor. I was trying to evoke the whole thing about the devil being in the detail and then conflating that with the ice-bucket challenge. Don’t judge me. I was . . . stretching.


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The Box Or The Thought

My little dudes loved ripping wrapping paper off presents.

I can’t tell you the number of times I cringed my way through a birthday party with one of the three dudes. They’d sit up there in their place of power (that is, surrounded by the rest of the party guests with presents stacked around them), and rip their way through the entire stack, barely pausing to breathe.

Cringing seemed mandatory to me because they would at times only Birthday parties for young dudes and dudettes are rapidly becoming greedfests, in which the birthday girl or birthday boy rip and tear through packages and don't even care about who's giving it, or what the present even is.rip a hole in the paper, see what the gift was, drop it and then move on to the next gift.

They took no time for appreciation, no time to thank the giver. Heck, they took no time to even find out who gave them a present. That was up to their mom and me.

Here’s the thing about that. Most of the presents? Hardly ever got played with. Either they already had something like it, didn’t like it or whatever reason. And my little dudes weren’t the only ones.

Most parents aren’t going to spend a buttload of money on a birthday present for a young dude or dudette, so there’s a certain range that the presents will be.

It felt so. . . wasteful.

And then our kids were invited to a party by a friend of ours. The birthday card requested that, instead of gifts, we bring either dog food, or a canine toy, or money to donate to the animal shelter. The girl of honor, you see, wanted to use her birthday to help those who couldn’t help themselves.

It was brilliant. And, apparently, it’s an idea the time for which has come. In a major way. Thanks to the internet. Of course.

EchoAge is an online invitation service that not only handles inviting the kids, but makes sure the party thrower gets wanted gifts and gives to charity.

When you receive an invitation, you can go to EchoAge to either accept or decline. While there, you can give whatever amount of money you choose to the birthday boy or girl.

Rather than being crass, it’s brilliant. See half the money goes to the kid and half of it goes to a charity the kid has already designated. Once the party is over, the kid can take the money given through the service and go out to buy a present he or she actually wants.

Not only does a charity receive donations, but both party giver and party goer can have discussions with parents about charity, the importance of helping out those who are less fortunate than you are, and finding ways to do things that are more efficient and more environmentally friendly.

How cool is that?

I really wish I had this service when my young dudes were young enough to actually use it. Right now, though, my young dudes are in that parental awkward age where they’re too old to want to have a cake-eating birthday party and invite friends and too young to go to Las Vegas, so that’s out.

Fortunately for you, though, EchoAge is expanding beyond the birthday party for kids and is starting to invite adults for various different kinds of parties, still offering to give half the money or more to charity.

No matter the age of the party giver, I think that’s a great idea.

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Amazon Smiles On Your Charity

Amazon.com rocks, dudes.

It really does. I’m not big on pushing a lot of corporations with endorsements, but I find myself making an exception in this case. Yes, I understand that Amazon.com is making things harder for brick-and-mortar stores (especially book stores) and other local places of commerce, but. . . well. . . It’s just so darn convenient for me.

I’m a member of Amazon Prime, which means I pay a piddling fee and I get free two-day delivery, lots of free streaming movies and other great bennies. It’s totally worth the money to me.

And here’s the thing: Amazon is making an actual effort to give back to the community, to my community. It’s giving %0.5 percent of my purchases (and I make a lot of them) to a charity I choose.

In my case, the charitable giving is going to The Fletcher School, a school in Charlotte that is for kids with learning disabilities. Zippy the College Boy graduated from there and Hyper Lad is a ninth-grader in the school right now. It’s a great place and I’m thrilled we’re able to give to its mission every time I purchase something on Amazon.com.

The thing is, Amazon.com isn’t doing this only for me. The company will donate to your favorite charitable organization also. All you have to do is start all your shopping at smile.amazon.com instead of amazon.com. You go there, designate the recipient of your giving and then you’re done.

Simply make sure you put smile. at the beginning of every Amazon.com web address (URL) and you’re good to go.

Here’s the skinny, direct from Amazon.

If you want Amazon to donate to the charity you’ve selected, you need to start each shopping session at the URL http://smile.amazon.com. You can type smile.amazon.com into your browser’s address bar or bookmark it to make it easy to return to AmazonSmile. When you start at smile.amazon.com Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible purchases to the charity of your choice.

Sounds easy enough. And it is.

Go on, dudes. Give it a shot. Designate a charity and get shopping.

I like it, mostly because it makes me feel slightly less guilty for buying all the stuff there and having all those cardboard boxes to recycle later.

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