Here's why celebrities are taking the 'Ice Bucket Challenge'

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You've probably seen a good number of photos this week of the rich and famous dumping buckets of ice water over their heads. Here's why.

What's going on?

Everyone you've seen is participating in the Ice Bucket Challenge. The challenge involves daring a person to dump a bucket of ice water over their head within the next 24 hours, or else donate money — usually $100 — toward fighting ALS. Even if a person completes the challenge, they're more than welcome to donate money too.

Once a person completes the challenge, they're also supposed to dare several other people — usually three — to participate, which is why the challenge has been growing and growing.

What's ALS?

The challenge is all about raising money and awareness for Lou Gehrig’s Disease

ALS is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, but you probably know it better as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It's a fatal disease that makes people who get it lose muscle control, including the ability to eat, speak, and breath. Life expectancy for those with it is between two and five years, and the only drug available for it is only able to extend that by a few months.

How'd the challenge get started?

The ALS Association says that Pete Frates, a former Boston College baseball player, began the Ice Bucket Challenge — and he's being widely credited for kicking it off. Frates is 29 and has been living with ALS since 2012. As Slate notes, however, it's not entirely accurate to credit Frates with beginning the challenge. Several people actually took the challenge before Frates, at which point they were only supposed to donate to a charity of their choice, rather than the ALS Association specifically. That said, the challenge has really become a phenomenon since Frates took the challenge at the end of last month.

So who's taken the challenge?

A lot of people — and a lot of famous people too. The latest trend is for tech executives to take it on: we've seen Mark Zuckerberg, Satya NadellaPhil Schiller, and Dick Costolo in just the past day. But it's far more than that. Justin Timberlake, Jimmy Fallon, The Roots, Matt Lauer, Martha Stewart, and Chris Christie are among the others who have accepted, dunked themselves, and challenged others. President Obama has apparently declined to get soaked, and is instead making a donation.

Isn't dumping water on your head in a public display of bravado a waste of time when you could just go ahead and donate money instead?

Not really. Raising awareness of ALS and the current state of ALS research is arguably as important as the immediate fundraising aspect. In the long run, there's plenty to gain from getting the the public thinking about the disease — and this challenge is doing just that. And while it sounds like a negative that challenge participants can get out of making a donation by getting doused, it's probably safe to assume that many of the high profile participants are also taking this as a moment to donate money.

Is this actually raising any money?

Oh yeah. A lot. The ALS Association received $4 million in donations between July 29th and August 12th — a figure over three and a half times as big as what it received during the same time period last year. Given that the challenge has only gotten bigger in the couple days since, there's good reason to believe that sum is still growing quickly.

What happens to all that money?

The ALS Association, a non-profit, is trying to find a cure for the disease, but its money also goes toward making sure that those currently living with the disease receive high-quality care. It partners with governments, health clinics, and also operates centers of its own to provide care for people with ALS and promote research on the disease.

So where can I see famous people soaking wet?

Let's see what we can do…

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