Ice Bucket Challenge: What is it?

Yahoo Lifestyle

It seems the days of asking your nearest and dearest to sponsor you a few quid each to run, swim or otherwise put yourself through something are on the out.

Now charities and supporters are looking for weirder and wackier ways to encourage people to support their cause - both financially and with increased awareness.

First we had the #nomakeupselfie, and now we have the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

The original idea in both cases is that you either do the challenge (post a make-up free photo of yourself on social media or dump a bucket of freezing cold water over your head) or you pay a donation to charity to have yourself excused. Then you nominate your friends to do the same.

Except because no one wants to look like they're shirking out of giving money to a good cause, most participants are donating money AND taking the challenge.

Celebrities are getting in on the act, helping to raise awareness of ALS - better known in this country as Motor Neurone Disease - with Justin Timberlake, Mark Zuckerberg, Emily Rossum, Chris Pratt and Bill Gates all splatting themselves with ice-cold water in the name of charity.

Chris Pratt tried to drink his way out of the challenge

Fortunately Barack Obama, when nominated, decided to take the road of donating $100 to charity rather than getting all wet, which more befits the president of the USA after all.

Mark Zuckerberg challenged Bill Gates, Sheryl Sandberg and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings

What is the charity all about?

Motor Neurone Disease (MND) is the general term for a collection of conditions that cause the degeneration of the nerve cells in the brain that control muscles in the body.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a particular type of motor neurone disease but in some countries, including the US, it's used as a more generic term.

Whatever you call it, MND/ASL is a debilitating and deadly condition. The progressive degeneration of the motor nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord mean that the sufferer rapidly loses control of muscles vital for movement, speech, breathing and swallowing.

The muscles weaken and become paralysed impairing all these essential functions. In most cases, the disease does not affect intellect, memory or the senses, but life expectancy after the onset of symptoms is low - between two and five years.

Bill Gates took on the challenge

How did the Ice Bucket Challenge start?

The challenge has been doing the rounds for some time, with sports stars taking it up and a slow trickle on social media. But as high profile celebs such as Justin Timberlake get involved, it's taking the internet by storm.

It's thought it all began with Boston College baseball player Pete Frates, whose American Football career was cut short by ALS.

His first challenge was accepted by fellow Boston athletes and some Red Sox players, where he'd been tipped to be a future player, and soon it had snowballed.

Doing for the girls - Emmy Rossum heads the actresses taking part


ASL and MND charities hope that with the extra money the challenge is bringing in, more research can helpbring a cure closer.

Like all of these crazes, it's easy to be cynical, but the ALS Association in the US has seen a huge increase in donations and awareness since the challenges begun. So if you're going to do it, be safe and don't forget to donate.

Find out more at the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

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