On August 23, 2014, I got doused.
My wife, acting purely from the goodness of her heart, sprung at me, right on cue. Emphatically, she dumped a utility bucket full of ice cubes and freezing water over my head.
Those of you who know us personally might suspect I probably had that coming. But this was an act born not out of vengeance but charity. Earlier in the day, you see, our family had been dared – by two separate Sarahs, one on each coast – to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that swept through the nation’s freezers and Facebook feeds during the summer of 2014.
We were only too happy to do our part. Especially my wife.
Carefully, we choreographed what had to be a one-take shoot, like the rocket car stunt at the end of “Hooper.” Millions of people willingly went under the bucket that summer; very few were prepared to do it a second time. So, standing in my parents’ yard with my kids at my side, we delivered our briskly rehearsed lines. Elizabeth then delivered the drenching like a vaudeville pro expertly executing the classic pie-in-the-face routine. The cubes cascaded down and around my head to great visual effect, stinging my shoulders and soaking my shirt. Everyone else got into the act, including our nephew, and soon most of us were wet. Voila! The Ice Bucket Challenge had been met.
Like everyone else, we shot our video, posted it for the viewing pleasure of our small social media circle of family, friends and followers. We challenged a few more families, and we made a donation to the ALS Association. Because, while taking a public ice bath is fun and all, the whole point was to raise money as well as awareness.
More important, during an eight-week window that summer, the Ice Bucket Challenge resulted in $115 million in donations, a considerable uptick for the charity. Two-thirds of that money was used to continue and expand research into the causes and treatments of ALS.
Was it the perfect fundraising vehicle? No. There were people who didn’t take the full plunge, who dunked but didn’t donate. But most charitable organizations would agree – every little bit of attention brought to their cause helps, and the Ice Bucket Challenge brought no shortage of attention to an illness that for too long had caused suffering and had been unable to shatter the silence.
The lesson and legacy of the Ice Bucket Challenge beyond the fight against ALS, though, is the potential power of a motivated and mobilized community in the digital age. Its organic reach is undeniable.
We live in a world more connected than ever. Just ask Chewbacca Mom.
And the 7.7 million viewers who found her on YouTube. And when one of us has something to share, there exists an opportunity for it to be shared with countless people, across the globe, every one of whom can become engaged, inspired and moved to help take up the fight. Whatever that fight may be.
In this space, you will read stories that we hope will inspire you. Stories about people who have decided to take up a fight. In most cases, these will not be people who are famous or uniquely qualified or professionally trained. They are your neighbors and your relatives, your classmates and your colleagues. They are people just like you – ordinary people determined to do something extraordinary – who have decided to step beyond the boundaries of their own comfort zone and challenge themselves to see how far they could go for something they believe in.
Usually, they wind up surprising themselves. And inspiring us in the process.
We’re going to put a face on every fight and make every issue personal. Then we hope that reading and watching their stories will implant a seed inside you that just might grow into a story of your own.
Let’s face it – the world needs you. To donate. To do. To dump a bucket of ice over your head, if that’s what it takes.
We encourage you to keep coming back to this space to experience – and share – the stories of amazing people doing amazing things. As Chewbacca Mom herself would say, This is gonna be worth it. I promise.