Splash. Brrrr. Pat Quinn co-founded the ALS ice bucket social media challenge in 2014. It quickly went “viral.” People dumped buckets of ice water on themselves. Why? To raise awareness and money to research the disease usually referred to as ALS. Sadly, Quinn died of that very disease last November. But he leaves a big legacy.
ALS stands for “amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.” The disease affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The nerve cells, called motor neurons, slowly die. Motor neurons control muscles that allow you to move parts of your body. People with ALS gradually lose the ability to use their muscles. Over time, they may become unable to speak, eat, move, and breathe. ALS is also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, after a beloved New York Yankees baseball player diagnosed with it in 1939.
Pat Quinn got his diagnosis with ALS in 2013, a month after his 30th birthday. He immediately wanted to help others with the disease.
In 2014, Quinn saw a video posted by professional golfer Chris Kennedy. Kennedy dared his wife’s cousin Jeanette Senerchia to pour a bucket of ice water over her head, post a video on social media, and ask others to do the same or to make a donation to charity. Senerchia’s husband had ALS.
Quinn and co-founder Pete Frates, along with supporters, helped popularize the challenge. The ALS Association says Quinn “knew it was the key to raising ALS awareness.”
When the two picked it up, the phenomenon exploded. Tens of thousands of people participated in the viral trend, including celebrities, sports stars, and politicians. When an image, video, or piece of information goes viral, it is shared rapidly and widely. Challenge videos were viewed millions of times. The ice bucket challenge raised more than $200 million worldwide for ALS research!
New internet challenges and trends pop up all the time. Some viral internet trends are positive and useful, like the ALS challenge. But some can be dangerous. It’s important not to just go along with the crowd. It’s wise to consider whether the trend is helpful or harmful before participating. Proverbs 27:12 says, “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.”