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Don't Attack The Summer of "Ice Buckets" - Just Do It

It's been called "slacktivism".

It's been called narcissism masked as charity.

But the "ice bucket challenge", which has torn its way in the amazing span of three week from a thing that college athletes and coaches were doing to a world-wide phenomenon, is nothing to cynically wag your finger at.

During the last few weeks, a multitude of Lehigh coaches, players, media members, and even athletic director Joe Sterrett have taken the icy bucket of water over their heads.

In doing so, they have done incredible good in raising awareness about an awful disease that really needs all the help it can get in regards to a cure.

I know this because I didn't just start giving to ALS causes in the last two weeks.

The concept behind the Ice Bucket Challenge is simple, and described in this New York Times article detailing its origin.

The stunt goes like this: People make a video of themselves dumping a bucket of ice water on their heads, post it on Facebook, Instagram or other social media sites, and then challenge friends to do the same within 24 hours or donate $100 to ALS. (Many do both.) 
People have shared more than 1.2 million videos on Facebook between June 1 and Aug. 13 and mentioned the phenomenon more than 2.2 million times on Twitter since July 29, according to those sites. Donations to the ALS Association have spiked. As of Sunday, the association said it had received $13.3 million in donations since July 29, compared with $1.7 million during the same period last year. It said there were about 260,000 new donors. (With a spate of celebrities and business executives joining in over the past few days and pledging contributions, that number is expected to rise.)
Pete Frates, a former Boston College baseball player with ALS, is credited with starting this as a way to raise funds to find a way to find a cure for this degenerative muscle disease once and for all.

With amazing speed, the ice bucket challenge went from Boston College through a multitude of athletic departments, ending up at Lafayette, and then Lehigh, thanks to Leopard head coach Frank Tavani.

What shouldn't be forgotten in regards to the Ice Bucket Challenge is the sheer number of people and workplaces who know people, or friends of people, who have been affected by ALS.

I learned that at Lafayette, former QB Tommy Kirchoff, who was the Patriot League Player of the Year in 1993 and guided the Leopards to a Patriot League championship, was diagnosed with ALS in 2010.

He's not the only one.  Larry O'Rourke, at the Morning Call, passed away in 2011 from ALS, and was a frequent guest of ESPN 1230 and 1320, a fact mentioned by radio host Tom Fallon, who did his own Ice Bucket Challenge in his memory (as did fellow host Matt Markus).

Indeed, in my life I have known two people who have suffered from ALS.

One was a distant uncle of mine, who died several years ago.

The other is Brett Snyder, whom I have detailed before on this blog as a true hero I know and have also mentioned in my right sidebar with a permanent fundraiser to help him and his family.  It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway, but I've contributed over the years to try to tackle ALS to find a cure, and to also contribute to several of Brett's fundraisers.

Brett is amazing on a multitude of levels.

On the field for the Brown and White, his blocking and toughness were vital in Lehigh's amazing run of championships and playoff victories in the late 1990s.

But it didn't stop there.

When most people stricken with ALS are give three to five years to live, Brett's was diagnosed in 2005 and today, in 2014, Brett is alive and home with his wife and two children.  That doesn't happen without being one tough son of a bitch.  I can only hope I can approach his level of 'tough-son-of-a-bitchness'.

I know Brett has touched many, many lives in the Lehigh Valley and beyond, and he's been a loyal friend and follower of Lehigh football.

That's why head coach Andy Coen mentioned him in his Ice Bucket Challenge video.

From Andy's Ice Bucket Challenge, it went to Dave Cecchini, new head coach at Valparaiso (and former assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at Lehigh)....

... then, through another channel, back to Bruce McCutcheon, director of athletics at Lafayette...

...then to Joe Sterrett, Lehigh's athletic director...

... then to Brett Reed, Lehigh's men's basketball coach...

... and then onto the Lehigh men's basketball coaching tree of Mitch Gilfillan and Matt Logie, who are also former Lehigh men's basketball players.

It is remarkable to note how rapidly this has worked its way through not only Lehigh's coaching tree, but is also becoming a worldwide phenomenon.  For example, it has jumped the ocean to England, where not a few English Premier League players have been taking part.

Those professional athletes, and a countless number of stars, athletes, media members and difference-makers, like Bill Gates, are following in the footsteps of all these folks, as well as a significant number of Lehigh football players, who have taken the challenge.  (As I find their ice bucket challenges, I'll post them below.)

It would be one thing if this all was truly just an exercise in narcissism, like planking, or other YouTube fads that have come and gone.

But the increase in awareness of ALS as a disease, and how many people have been personally affected or touched by someone stricken with it, is incredible - not to mention the huge influx of money heading towards finding a cure.

I've known a few things about ALS over the years.  I didn't just start raising awareness about ALS last week; I've been trying to spend time over the last decade raising awareness of events, giving funds, and other things.

I don't promise to know everything about ALS, but what I do know that it is a horrible disease that robs people of a big part of their lives.

But not everything.

I also know that there are two elements of ALS, including one that people don't always stop to think about.

One is the part about finding a cure.  ALS is not a disease which lends itself to shiny photo-ops, so it tends to sometimes get forgotten in regards to finding a cure.  In this arena, the ALS Ice Bucket challenge is funneling much-needed dollars towards eradication.  This is incredible in its own right.

But there is also the part about the continuing care of ALS patients, a part which also flies under the radar of most people.

For example, many folks stricken with ALS can use computers with the right hardware and software, and it improves their quality of life immensely.  But that hardware and software is specialized and expensive.

It doesn't stop there.  Wheelchairs, accessible vans, even whole home remodels sometimes need to be undertaken to make a house livable for someone with ALS.  The costs are enormous.  Bankruptcy is a distinct possibility for some folks with the disease.

If this is the legacy of a few buckets of ice water over people's heads, I'm all for it.

To me, with every person that shares their story in regards to ALS, and shows their solidarity with finding a cure, it's a good thing.  Even if they only give $5 to the cause, and get a cool YouTube video out of the bargain - even if it's a fad that only last a couple of weeks, the money donated to this cause will have a dramatic positive effect.  Of that, I am certain.

That's why I feel it shouldn't be criticized.

It's also why I'm going to do my own Ice Bucket Challenge very soon.

If you haven't done it, and/or haven't contributed, please do.  Contributing to the Brett Snyder online fundraiser - that "counts".  We want to tackle ALS once and for all.

Lehigh senior LB Isaiah Campbell:


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