Is the ice bucket challenge raising more than nipples?

Jennie McNulty columnBY JENNIE MCNULTY

I wonder if, as he stood at home plate on July 4, 1939, modestly claiming to “feel like the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” Lou Gehrig would have imagined people dumping buckets of ice water over their heads to raise money to cure his disease. Probably not. Then again, he probably wouldn’t have envisioned the designated hitter and instant replay either.

Everyone it seems is posting videos of themselves being drenched with icy water. Even R2D2 took the challenge. Although, I’m not sure if R2 donated in dollars or Aurodium ingots. As of this writing, the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised $41.8 million dollars for the ALS Association. ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is a progressive degenerative disease of the motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord that activate the muscles responsible for voluntary movement. People with ALS slowly lose the ability to move, speak and swallow. Eventually, as the muscles of the diaphragm weaken, a ventilator is needed to breathe. Their cognitive functions are usually not effected. There is no cure and the majority die within 5 years. Although there are some rare cases of people living 10 years or more, and the rather extraordinary case of Stephen Hawking who has lived with it for over 50 years.

But, how the heck does dumping ice water on your head raise anything besides awareness and nipples? And how did this all start anyway? According to several accounts I found online, several months ago it was just a general challenge of dumping the bucket of ice water and challenging others to do the same in 24 hours or donate $100 to their favorite charity.

Chris Kennedy, a golfer in Sarasota, Florida, was the first to associate it with ALS after he took part and challenged his cousin whose husband suffers from ALS. It went viral when many people and the professional sports teams in the Boston area did it in support of former Boston College baseball player, Pete Frates who suffers with the disease. Leave it to the New Englanders, first tea in the harbor, now this.

The current challenge is this: Someone challenges you and you have 24 hours to post a video of your chilly self-drenching and then donate $20 to ALS. If you just got back from the beauty parlor with your hair all did, you may pass on the challenge and donate $100. I’m not sure everyone is doing more than the video portion, but, with $41.8 million raised (including 739,275 new donors), a lot of people are.

But, as the old adage goes, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Some are complaining that people are only doing it as part of a new fad and that with water such a precious commodity people shouldn’t be wasting it. That is true. Especially, here in drought-ravaged California. hose buckets of H2O do add up. But enough to stop something that could lead to a breakthrough in the search for a cure for a horrific disease? I don’t know. And, on the bright side, perhaps, this protest will lead to awareness of how much water we do waste. For example, there’s an awful lot of car washing that goes on here in LA. Is that really necessary? No. And water conservation is a much better answer than laziness as to why “wash me” is always written in the dirt on my car. At least, I think that’s what it said, it was in Spanish.

If drought isn’t a good reason to protest, how about some Catholic organizations protesting the challenge because the foundation supports research that uses embryonic stem cells. That argument makes me so angry on so many levels I can’t even being to tackle it. I want to dump a bucket of ice water on their heads, not so much the ice water, just a really heavy bucket. No wonder the new Pope is already talking retirement.

Now, Pamela Anderson is declining the challenge because of ALS research done on animals. This one’s a really touchy subject for me because, before comedy, I worked in research and we did work with animals. I don’t know if I would do it today, but I do still feel it’s necessary. And steps are being taken to develop more non-animal methods. Also, the statistics she sites are misleading and taken out of context. And, Pamela dear, more than a few animals were killed in the development of the myriad of cosmetic procedures you’ve had done. THAT, to me, is far more heinous than using animals to try and cure disease.

But, I must now conclude this blog as I have just received notice that I’ve been “challenged.” Sh*t. I HATE COLD WATER! But, I will do this. editor and writer Candy Parker is my challenger. And, I will do so at the beach, with ocean water that will go right back into the ocean and frozen plastic ice cubes (shaped like footballs). And, before you get too hung up on wasting a couple gallons of water, reread the paragraph above that describes this disease and think about what that would be like for you or someone you love. Maybe take one less shower or, really, even a 20-second shorter one.

Now, if you’re so inclined, spread the word and maybe some dough to help stop a horrific disease — this one or cancer or puppies without tails — whatever cause is close to your heart. Hell, donate money to groups that promote non-animal testing or the development of completely safe, synthetic lips and titties. And stay tuned for the Hot Chicken Soup Challenge that will soon be sweeping the World Wide Web in support of all those who got pneumonia from dumping ice on their heads.

And, of course, the subsequent protests by Peta (for the chickens); The Bouillon Lovers of America and Grandmothers everywhere for wasting good soup.


Jennie McNulty was named one of Curve magazine’s Top 10 lesbian comedians. She can be heard weekly as co-host of LA Talk Radio‘s “Cathy Is In: The Cathy DeBuono Show.”

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