ALS ice bucket challenge: Born into a campaign

This summer, after seeing the ALS ice bucket challenge take society by storm, it made me think and realize something.

In 1991, I was born into a campaign – which my family had already started in 1985. My Grandmother Rita McKenna had been diagnosed with ALS then, and passed away in 1993.

The last six months the world witnessed and participated in a phenomenon like no other. The Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) “ice bucket” challenge influenced millions of people who took part in having a bucket/tub of ice cold water dumped over their heads in order to raise awareness or fundraise for ALS aka Lou Gehrig ’s Disease. als_forbes

From a public relations stand point the ALS ice bucket challenge was an amazing prodigy. Someone who decided to do something as simple as pouring water over their heads turned into a viral campaign raising hundreds and millions of dollars. Something so simple and thoughtful turned out to be a genius idea.

The first time I saw the ice bucket challenge was, yes, on Facebook. An old friend of mine had posted the video, and what caught my eye and attention was not the action of her pouring ice water over her head – but the actual status which entailed, “…raising money for ALS…”

The post also mentioned how she had nominated three others to do the same, or else they would “have” to donate $100 dollars towards the ALS Association. I was shocked and in awe to see this. I thought it was awesome, and was like something I had never seen before. And, in a way I was surprised this person did not nominate me. When I met this person, eight years ago, She had mentioned she her father had been battling ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

When I heard that I speechless, pursed my lips, and nodded my head from side to side in a pondering state. This person and I had something in common. To my recollection, at 16 years old then, I had never met someone else who had a family member with ALS…

Since I can remember I’ve known what ALS meant and what Lou Gerhig’s Disease was. And, that was what Grandma Rita had passed away from.

Since I can remember my family has been participating in ALS fundraisers and fundraising on the side. Until a few years ago, every year our family was invited to the Monmouth Park Race Track where there would be a race named after and dedicated to Rita McKenna as a fundraiser for ALS.

Since I can remember my mother has been overly persistent with participating in fundraising for ALS. Every year the ALS Association holds a walk in Pier Village, Long Branch. Hundreds of people gather on the boardwalk every spring to walk in memory for their lost loved ones and friends. She rallies the family members from the McKenna side and her own side to take part in the walk and donate money towards ALS…I admire it a lot.

Long Branch 2014
Long Branch 2014

For my father’s birthday, this past May, all that he asked for was a card with money in it. That money was going to be used to donate towards ALS.

My personal view on the ice bucket challenge:

First, what surprised me the most was how many people were unaware of what ALS was, the little knowledge known about it, or how people had never really heard of the disease before. Other circumstances made sense, where some only knew it as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” but they still didn’t actually know much about the disease.

I don’t say that out of animosity though either…I guess because I’ve been aware of it forever and was personally affected by it other people’s reactions came to me simply as surprising.

I was recently at a family BBQ where a friend of mine asked my cousin and I what our take was on the ice bucket challenge…

My cousin and I stood there calmly, shrugged our shoulders, and had a content look on our faces expressing no dissatisfaction towards it at all. I then gave my whole take on it.

I explained how everyone was so shocked by the phenomena and had mixed reactions towards it, but for McKenna’s and Foster’s, this was nothing new for us at all. It was just another fundraiser for ALS that happened to become immensely popular and viral.

I mentioned how I had been nominated on three different occasions, but did not go through with the ice bucket challenge. Why didn’t I?

I guess because we didn’t really think anything more of it, and for some reason I had no immediate urge to. I thought, well we fundraise all the time for this…our ALS campaign started over 23 years ago, and hasn’t stopped.

I think the ALS ice bucket challenge was an amazing thing. It was a great cause. It raised awareness all over the world, and as a Professor once told me, “You can’t measure ‘awareness’ in a campaign – you can only measure results…”

Well, the results are in –the challenge/campaign raised over $100 million. We saw TV personality hosts, celebrities, professional athletes, politicians, and more all take part in the challenge on national television etc.

I admire the ice bucket challenge, and those who took the time to participate in it, the same way I admire my mother being persistent in honoring her mother in-law, Grandma Rita.

Others may or may not feel the same, but from someone who had a family member pass away from the rare disease, I can say I have no problem with what occurred over the summer.

The way I look at it is perhaps this ice bucket challenge can hopefully lead to other campaigns to help fundraise and raise awareness for other horrible diseases. Or, perhaps we will never see something again like we witnessed this summer.

When you think about it, dumping water over another’s head is something you typically see young kids doing with their friends in a pool or at the beach with their pales; an action as small and simple as that ended up being the “poster-child” for ALS that had those same politicians, icons, celebrities, and professional athletes all taking part in the ‘childish’ cause.

As I’ve mentioned I have not done the ice bucket challenge, yet. And even though my family’s consistently involved – I promise that one day I will be more enthusiastically involved in raising awareness and fundraising for ALS – out of pure passion and love – Challenge accepted.

23 years later, I find myself in the Pr field. Pr is a strong passion of mine, which is a field where campaigns are practiced and created on a daily basis. Without even realizing it – I was born into a campaign.

It’s the little things in life, like seeing people do “childish” acts that resulted into being an amazing cause, that inspire me.

Published by kylemickeymckenna

Freelancer & aspiring author writing about the little things in life & sports that inspire me. Never forget DP5. RG71. MW12. Forever teammates.

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