I wasn’t surprised when I was nominated—if that’s the right word—for the Ice Bucket Challenge, the ALS fundraiser that’s been sweeping the nation. If social media has taught us anything, it’s that people love to get in on a meme, and this one quickly mutated into something like the Harlem Shake with a philanthropic bent.
If you’ve somehow managed to avoid the Ice Bucket Challenge, let me explain the ground rules: You dump a bucket of ice water on your head or pledge money to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association—many people do both—and then call on others to do the same. If you ask why you should dump ice water on your head, you are a horrible person who hates charities and it makes me physically ill to even look at you. For shame, for shame, you warm, dry person.
The cause in question, ALS, is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, because he was the first famous person to have it. Interestingly enough, in Bill Bryson’s One Summer: America, 1927, Bryson spends quite a while explaining what a dud Gehrig was when it came to the ladies. Before leaving on a road trip, Gehrig and his mom “would kiss and hug for 10 minutes, to the acute discomfort of teammates nearby.” Even at age 23, as a star for the Yankees, Gehrig had never had a girlfriend and lived at home.
This might be attributable to the fact that, according to Bryson, Gehrig “suffered from an almost total lack of personality.” So even if he never developed ALS, we still might have something called Lou Gehrig’s disease, but the main symptom would be horrible game. “Oh, man, did you see Smitty get shot down by that girl at the bar?” “Hey, take it easy. He has Lou Gehrig’s disease.”
So, back to the ice buckets. The ALS Association says that, so far, the legions of ice bathers—inspired in part by former BC baseball player Pete Frates, who is living with ALS—have generated more than $94 million in donations. And that’s fantastic—not just for the money, but because, as an awareness raiser, this is the best thing since Curt Schilling’s bloody sock. My question, though, is why do these charitable activities always need to include some kind of unpleasant physical component? Why must we suffer in our philanthropy? It seems like every kind of pledge or challenge involves a torturous bike ride, a brutal run or some other feat of endurance. Support me in my pledge to walk on my hands from Maine to Texas, and you, too, can help eradicate kennel cough.
So I decided to modify the challenge. When my buddy Dave nominated me, he told me I had 24 hours to give $10, douse myself or both. So I had some time to think about this. And I concluded that I was ready to take the Ice Bucket Challenge in a new direction.
Instead of dumping cold water on my head, I filled a bucket with ice packs. Then I placed a single bottle of Samuel Adams Summer Ale in there. I let it get cold, because obviously coldness is an essential part of the ritual. Then I took the beer out of the bucket, opened it with my favorite mermaid-shaped opener and drank it. The beer was perfectly chilled and refreshing, and the mere taste of it inspired me to go inside and donate $50 to the ALS Association. What a great fundraiser!
Per the format of the Ice Bucket Challenge, I nominated a couple of people to join me in my fight against ALS and thirst. One was my buddy Doyle, who told me that he’d already donated but would drink a beer anyway. The other was North Korean tyrant Kim Jong-un, because I feel it’s time for him to pull his weight on this. And also because I wasn’t entirely confident in my pronunciation of “Putin.” Is it “Pee-yoo-tin” or “Poo-tin?” OK, I just looked it up, and it’s actually pronounced “Poo-teen,” which is hilarious. That means that in Quebec, his name is President Gravy Fries. And also that if I ever go to Russia I will probably be thrown in the gulag next to Pussy Riot.
As for the Ice Bucket Challenge, I suppose it’s an attention getter, but I maintain that these things should be fun. Where’s the Get a Massage for Cancer challenge? Because I would do that. I would nobly go get a massage, donate money to fight cancer and nominate others to do the same. How about Peace and Quiet for Pets? I pledge to enjoy a little peace and quiet—as if that’s POSSIBLE AROUND HERE—and in return I’ll give some dough to the MSPCA. Everybody wins.
See, it’s just about linking an activity and a cause. A fundraiser doesn’t have to include getting punched in the groin. Although I bet that one would be a big hit.