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Ask McArdle: How did the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge start?

Getting wet is all part of the fun

Bill Gates dousing himself with ice water and making a face

Bill Gates completing the Ice Bucket Challenge. But what are the trend’s origins?


How did the ALS ice bucket challenge start? And should I take part?

In keeping with McArdle family tradition, I was duly dispatched at the tender age of 8 by my stoic father and weeping mother to a British boarding school, there to learn independence and gentlemanly conduct in a setting unchanged since the glory days of the Empire. The strengthening process to which all students were subjected included long laps in a frosty pool during the nippy month of February.

The ALS ice bucket challenge has more humane origins. Dousing oneself with freezing water was already a pastime in vogue when a fine Floridian named Chris Kennedy nominated Lou Gehrig’s disease as his cause of choice:

The link between the ice bucket challenge and ALS endured, and shivering do-gooders have raised $15.6 million for the ALS Association since July 29, with its Canadian counterpart grossing over $200,000 towards a $1.5 million goal. Titans of industry not commonly known for extreme-temperature endurance are taking part, though the list is a little short on Canadian head honchos:

NHL players, no strangers to getting a face full of the cold stuff, have been particularly enthusiastic:

It’s a play-or-pay challenge (with a $100 suggested contribution). Should you douse yourself with freezing liquid to show support rather than pay up? Do both—your social media following will get to see your fun side, and every dollar helps. Remember, without the donation you’re just a shivering slacktivist wearing wet socks.