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Ice Bucket Challenge passes $125m mark

Stunt draws some flak for water wastage, raises question on use of funds amassed

Published on Aug 31, 2014 6:34 AM

Washington - The "Ice Bucket Challenge" viral craze has raised more than US$100 million (S$125 million) after sweeping the globe since its launch last month, according to the organisers.

The phenomenally popular stunt - which sees participants being doused in a bucket of ice-cold water before challenging others to take part - was set up to raise awareness and cash about Lou Gehrig's disease.

A galaxy of celebrities and high-profile personalities have taken part in the challenge, including Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg, Bill Gates and even former US president George W. Bush.

The ALS Association, which combats Lou Gehrig's or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, said that US$100.9 million in donations were raised between July 29 and Aug 29. This compared with US$2.8 million during the same period last year.

"The word gratitude doesn't do enough to express what we are feeling right now," ALS Association president and chief executive Barbara Newhouse said.

She added: "These funds will be used to fund cutting-edge research as well as care and support to people living with the disease."

The success of the viral campaign has been driven by its legion of enthusiastic A-list participants from entertainment, sport, politics and business. Taylor Swift, Shakira, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga are just some of the stars who have taken part to date.

But the campaign has also drawn flak in China and South Asia for water wastage. Sri Lankan politician Malsha Kumaratunga staged an ice bucket event to raise money for a local animal welfare trust but saw her donation decline.

"Wasting water like this in a tropical country is an insult to thousands who are suffering because of the drought," said former foreign minister and opposition spokesman Mangala Samaraweera, referring to the parched southern regions of the island nation.

In Mumbai, some Bollywood stars have also turned down the ice bucket challenge, citing similar concerns.

When asked to take part in the ice bucket challenge, Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor instead tweeted: "Already made a donation! Not dumping water :-( waste of resources!"

China's Ministry of Civil Affairs has also warned against commercialising a charitable cause.

The biggest question so far surrounds the issue of how the donations would be used.

Online critics point to a pie chart on the ALS Association's website showing that research accounts for just 28 per cent of the group's annual expenses ending on Jan 31 this year.

The chart shows that the association used 32 per cent of its funds for public education, 19 per cent for patient and community services, 14 per cent for fund-raising, and 7 per cent on administrative costs.

Ms Newhouse, however, was quoted by the Boston Globe as saying the non-profit group is "absolutely committed to transparency" and will "invest these dollars wisely in areas that will have maximum impact on the fight against this devastating disease".

AFP, Xinhua