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Ice challenge among sportsmen – humanity, fun or self-promotion?

Sportsmen all over the world have joined action known under the name “Ice Bucket Challenge” (Ice Challenge, Cold Water Challenge), and the basic idea of this challenge is spreading awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and therefore encouraging donation that are supposed to be used for enhancing scientific research in finding a cure for this illness, what the pharmaceutical companies are not interested in enough. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is one of the five most common diseases of motor neurons, which is often called MND (motor neuron disease) and Charcot disease, while in the USA it known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Anyone can fall ill with the ALS, and the middle-aged population is the most critical group. It was noted that on every 100.000 inhabitants one or two persons fall ill with this disease, and the biggest tendency is among Caucasians. However, not many people suffer from this disease – in the USA there are 30.000 people suffering from the ALS. At the beginning the disease is characterized with muscle cramps and weakness of muscles, which is very progressive and patients very quickly lose the ability to walk, talk, swallow, and finally breathe, so many of them become totally paralyzed while their brain is still functioning. Most of the patients die within three to five years after the first symptoms appear, while patients living longer than ten years are very rare. There are medicines that relieve secondary symptoms of the disease, but there is not one to treat the very disease. Considering the number of patients, pharmaceutical industry is not interested in financing expensive laboratory researches that could discover a cure for the ALS, because its sale would not bring satisfactory profit. In 10% of the cases the ALS is a hereditary disease, and that is the way 26-year-old Anthony Carbajal was diagnosed with it, whereby his grandmother died of the same disease and his mother was diagnosed with the ALS as well. The two of them are now fighting with the consequences of this neurodegenerative disease without any hope being completely cured. In order to spread awareness of the ALS and encourage donations that would help finding a cure for this disease, Anthony Carbajal told his sad story in a video, posted on YouTube on 15th April this year. In another video, posted on 15th August and that reached almost 15 million views in ten days, Anthony Carbajal imitated Miley Cyrus’s music video in a funny way and then explained that people suffering from the ALS feel as a normal person would feel if he/she were suddenly splashed with a bucket of freezingly cold water.

That is how the action Ice Bucket Challenge gained momentum, and its idea is that a donator of the fund for finding a cure (www.alsa.org) challenges the next potential donator to this ice challenge within the following 24 hours, and if the person does not accept it, he/she is due to pay $100 as a donation. The new donator challenges the next potential donator and that is how this endless chain expands. This way, on one hand, increasing number of donators is encouraged (with a payment of at least $100), and on the other hand, awareness of the ALS is spread (by accepting the ice challenge). Beside numerous personalities from the world of show business and politics, sportsmen from all over the world joined the Ice Bucket Challenge immediately, which was somewhat expected of them because with their popularity they can definitely significantly contribute to spreading awareness of this quite rare and for general public till-yesterday-unknown disease. Furthermore, top sportsmen lead in incomes, so they are able to financially support the battle for finding a cure for the ALS. What is less known is that everything started with a sportsman. Namely, the Ice Bucket Challenge was not related to this humanitarian action until July 15th this year, when golfer Charles Kennedy was nominated by his friend in Florida. He accepted the challenge and directed his donation to the ALS fund because his cousin was diagnosed with that disease. On that occasion he nominated his cousin’s wife, which attracted the attention of 31-year-old Pat Quinn from New York, also suffering from the ALS, who started this campaign with the help from Pete Frates, who is former baseball player of Boston college, and victim of the ALS as well. One of the best quarterbacks of today, Tom Brady joined this humanitarian chain as one of the first and that is when the entire action got its massiveness. Among the sportsmen that have already experienced the ice challenge are: Novak Djokovic, John McEnroe, Michael Jordan, Roger Federer, Ana Ivanovic, Tiger Woods, Lionel Messi, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham, Vincent Kompany, Branislav Ivanovic, Jose Mourinho, Didier Drogba and many other from all around the world. Sometimes even entire teams did it, such as the NFL team Atlanta Falcons or the Dutch football club PSV. None of the physical challenges are hard for the top sportsmen, on the contrary, it is the matter of honor. However, more and more often a question is posed in public whether this is just another type of fun, or even self-promotion, not only for sportsmen but for other public figures, because the way it is lately, it looks precisely as that. How much can the public be certain that they marked their participation in this action with financial donation to the fund for finding a cure for the ALS? On one hand, donators usually insist on discretion regarding amount of their donations, but on the other hand the entire action is based on public participation, so maybe announcing information that the donators gave a donation would be in the interest of the very donators. Otherwise doubt that one humanitarian action turned into self-promotion and fun for spoiled stars would only get bigger. There are different examples as well. Actor Charlie Sheen did it his own way – he splashed himself with a bucket full of bills that were a total of $10.000, which was also his donation to this humanitarian action. Popular Captain Picard from the Star Trek, Sir Patrick Stewart wrote down a check for the ALS fund and toasted with a scotch on the rocks. The fact that the ALS Association received a donation of $79,7 million from July 29th to August 25th shows that the Ice Bucket Challenge contributed to expanding awareness of this disease, especially in relation to $2.5 million they received in the same period last year. However, participation of new donators is only 2,2% which is in favor of observation that many participants of the Ice Bucket Challenge have seen this as just another type of fun and self-promotion, pushing into the background a humanitarian action and sincere participation of true humanists among public figures, and among sportsmen as well.

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