Tumbler Ridge Residents rise to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Trent Ernst, Editor


Tumbler Ridge residents are turning up in droves to support victims of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)—also referred to as motor neurone disease (MND) and/or Lou Gehrig’s disease by dumping a bucket of ice on their head.

The fundraiser swept through town last week, as friends nominated other friends to either donate $100 to support research to cure ALS, or to dump a bucket of ice water over their head. An amendment to the rules adds in the note that people who dump the ice water over their head should still donate $10.

The idea has met with much support, but also much criticism, as the focus is primarily on fun, rather than on donating money to charity. This, says critics like Willard Foxton, a journalist writing for the National Post, trivializes charity and focuses the attention on the self-congratulatory individual: “It’s a middle-class wet-T-shirt contest — pay $10 in order to simultaneously show off what a good person you are and how good you look all soaking wet.”

There are also dangers involved in taking the challenge, and not just from dropping said ice bucket (some people have used garbage cans full of water dumped off of decks, with disastrous results) or trying increasingly dangerous stunts (a teenager died jumping 80 feet off of a cliff as his Ice Bucket Challenge), but ice water can be dangerous to people with certain conditions or on certain medications.

But despite the naysayers, many local people have taken the challenge. Local firefighter Brandon Braam’s video was one of the first Ice Bucket Challenges from town to show up in my Facebook feed, having been nominated by teacher Stephanie Davis who was nominated by student Myles Wagner, who was nominated by lifeguard Dylan Miller who was nominated by former TR Resident Aaron Wylie.

Braam dumps a bucket of ice water on his head, then gets hosed by some of the other firefighters, off-camera. He says that he did indeed get involved because it was fun. “It’s more fun to put a video out there and challenge other people,” he says. “I think there’s an awareness part to it, but then there’s the fun of doing the ice bucket challenge, and in challenging people. It’s also fun to see people come up with creative ways to do it.”

And was his awareness raised? He says that it has. “I’m no expert, but ALS is a disease that stops your muscles from moving. I watched a video from a guy who said that now he can’t squeeze his hand, and he’s scared because slowly he’s losing functions.”

High School principal Blaine Broderick also took the challenge (wearing a cape, no less), having been nominated by Deanna Walsh, who was nominated by Janeth Barker.

If anyone in town has a reason to focus their charitable giving in other directions, it’s Broderick. His son Aidan has been diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, and Broderick spearheads fundraising for that disease in town.

And he says he was hoping not to get nominated. “I was actually hoping I would avoid it. It’s somehow feels like people are peer pressuring you into doing it, but I ended up getting nominated, so decided to do it.”

Broderick decided to have some fun with it, wearing a cape as he picked up a cooler full of ice to dump on his head.

Not everyone is feeling the peer pressure as of the four people that Broderick has nominated (including yours truly), none have actually gone through with the challenge themselves.

But why, when he could be supporting his own son, is he doing the ALS challenge? “I’m fortunate enough to be in good health, and if this is a way of promoting awareness or generating donations that will eventually lead to an effective treatment or potential cure of ALS, the human in me wants to give and allow that to happen.”

He was tempted, he says, to mention CF in his video, but in the end decided not to, instead donating to both charities when he took the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Not everyone has been so singularly focused about it. The Challenge has hit at every level of society, from kids to seniors, and from locals who have never been on video before to yes, some folks who might qualify as Narcissistic. Famous people are getting involved, too, from former president George W. Bush to celebrities like Peter Dinklage and Matt Damon.

Damon is an interesting addition to the challenge, as one of the biggest criticisms leveled at the challenge is that it wastes water when many people have no access to clean water. “It posed a problem for me,” says Damon in his video. “Not only because there is a drought here in California, but because I co-founded Water.org, and we envision a day when everyone has access to a clean drink of water. There are about 800 million who don’t, so dumping a bucket of clean water on my head seemed a little crazy.”

The organization also aims “to bring adequate sanitation to the 2.4 billion people on planet earth who don’t have it.” Damon’s solution? Use water from the toilets. “For those of you like my wife who think this is really disgusting, keep in mind that the water in our toilets in the west is actually cleaner than the water that most people in the developing world have access to.”

With rumours of snow already starting to fly, one imagines the challenge won’t have much of a shelf life, especially in the north. Will it be repeatable, like other viral charitable initiatives, like Movember? Only time will tell, but that’s another criticism that has been leveled against the Ice Bucket challenge. Many, if not most, are doing it just because someone challenged them to dump a bucket of ice on their head. The charitable aspect gets lost in the challenge. And so instead of building awareness, instead of building a base of support, some feel that this is just a flash in the pan sensation that will soon fall away, just like autumn leaves before the first gust of winter’s wind.

But every dollar donated is a dollar closer to the cure, and so the Tumbler Ridge News Challenges you, not to dump a bucket of ice on your head, but to learn more about ALS. And, if you are going to dump ice on your head, to also donate to one of the many charities working towards finding a cure.