Tag Archives: soapbox

Stop Throwing Cold Water on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

You’ve heard about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by now, if you or your friends haven’t done it. Unfortunately, by now you’ve already probably heard some of the backlash against it. I know I’ve been reading a lot of negative articles about it, seeing people rain on the parade on Facebook, and hearing friends and coworkers be cynical about it. Let’s see if I can sum up the Debbie Downers of the world’s thoughts on it:

  • It’s a stupid gimmick and people should just donate to ALS research and skip the ice.
  • Why are you only supposed to donate if you don’t do the ice bucket? Donating shouldn’t be the consolation prize.
  • People are doing it for the wrong reasons—for attention or because it’s trendy, not because they care about ALS.
  • People were doing it anyway before it became about ALS.
  • It’s taking attention away from other worthy causes.


Did I miss anything?


I’m sick of hearing all this, and I’m more than happy to be part of the backlash-to-the-backlash, as New York magazine would put it.


The Ice Bucket Challenge first started popping up on my newsfeed a couple of weeks ago, but it wasn’t my first time hearing about  Pete Frates. I don’t know Pete, but he was at Boston College when I was, and I’ve been hearing about him and his battle with ALS through the BC alumni community for a while now. At first, it was just people from college doing the challenge, and I was thinking it was mainly a BC thing. But I was surprised by how quickly it spread. I saw friends I knew from places other than college start to do it, and, well, the rest is history—everyone from Justin Timberlake to Bill Gates to Ethel Kennedy has done it by now.


Can you donate to ALS research without throwing ice water on your head? Of course you can. You can also donate to charity without running a marathon (or any other road race or bike race or swim race or triathlon or walkathon) or attending a gala. And dousing yourself in ice water, unlike those things, is free. But athletic events, galas, and ice bucket challenges get people to pay attention in ways that simple discussion of a cause doesn’t—a basic marketing principle. Those of you arguing that it’s taking money away from other causes, why don’t you just find a better way to draw attention to your cause? This certainly shows that it’s possible for charity to go viral.


I do understand skepticism about social media gimmicks to raise awareness. The Facebook trend where women were posting the colors of their bras without context, ostensibly to raise awareness about breast cancer (a disease I can’t imagine anyone being unaware of), was beyond pointless. But ALS is a disease that could certainly benefit from greater awareness, and this challenge is about raising money as well as awareness.  


And if you want to talk about money, here are some numbers for you:

$5.5 Million: How much money has been raised for ALS since the Ice Bucket Challenge started.

$32,000: How much was raised during the same period of time last year.


That should be the end of the argument right there. ALS is a horrible, progressive, incurable disease that causes its sufferers to lose control of their bodies. Maybe one day there will be a cure, but cures are found through research, and research needs money. Now there’s $5.5 million more going towards that research.


So who cares how or why that money was donated? It’s not even the ends justifying the means—more like the ends justifying the motive, even if that motive was less than altruistic. Yes, there are people who are only doing it for attention or because it’s trendy and haven’t given ALS a second thought. Even so—$5.5 million. It’s hard to argue with that. And by my own unscientific analysis, I believe that most people who do the challenge are donating anyway, even if technically the rules say that you only have to donate if you don’t do it.


There are so many terrible, sad things going on in the world right now. The fighting in Gaza, the Iraq crisis, the Ebola outbreak, the killing of Mike Brown and its aftermath in Missouri, the suicide of Robin Williams. It’s beyond me why anyone would want to turn people raising millions of dollars for an extremely worthy cause, something I’d consider unambiguously positive, into something to complain about.


I myself got tagged by my friend Erin on Monday. I had to wait until yesterday to film it (turns out there are unforeseen challenges to living alone, like not having anyone to hold the camera when you want to make a video!), but I would have donated even if I’d done it within twenty-four hours.


And so should you. Enjoy this video of me throwing ice water on myself, then visit www.petefrates.com and donate. I tagged my friends Christina, Jon, and Steph in the video, but if you’re reading this, consider yourself tagged!


Odds and Ends

Life goes on, and this week has been blessedly mundane. Here are five completely unrelated things.

1. THANK YOU to everyone who has donated so far to my run next week! If you haven’t donated yet, you have until Monday at 5:00 PM.

2. While I still don’t like Twitter, I have to say that one of the best feeds out there is Modern Seinfeld. I love Seinfeld and reference it way too much, and Modern Seinfeld cracks me up. The hypothetical plots they come up with are things I can completely see the Seinfeld characters doing. It is kind of strange to think about how much exists now that didn’t in the 90s- the Internet was barely a thing and cell phones were still new when the show ended.

But anyway, the other day they had their best tweet yet:

AMAZING. Even more amazing considering that my post on that subject was titled “Call Me Elaine,” in reference to the episode where Elaine hates The English Patient. I can tell you from experience that people really do act like you killed someone if you say you hate Arrested Development!

3. Line from Seinfeld I keep wanting to quote but can never find the right opportunity for: “You know, we’re living in a SOCIETY!

Line from Friends I keep wanting to quote but can never find the right opportunity for: “That is brand new information!”

4. On Sundays, I am now DVR-ing two shows, which are at polar opposites of the current spectrum of modern TV: Mad Men and What Would Ryan Lochte Do?.

Mad Men is still, in my humble opinion, the best show on TV. Even now, in Season 6, I’m marveling at how literary it is. I always tell people it’s a show for English majors- there is just so much to analyze and examine, both in individual episodes and across seasons and the whole show.

And then there’s What Would Ryan Lochte Do?.

Ryan Lochte cracks me up. He’s so pretty, and such a talented swimmer, but apparently there’s some chlorine water stuck in his brain because man, is he dumb. Male swimmers are usually huge dorks with great bodies, but most of them are somewhat smart. Not Ryan.

There’s only been one episode, but so far, while he’s definitely quite dim, he also comes off as very sweet, kind of like if Joey Tribbiani was a swimmer. Reality TV is often scripted (shocker!) but I did believe him when he said he just wants a girl to settle down with, and there was a really nice moment where he got teary talking about how his family always supports him.

I have to say, too, that the show is making me think of other shows featuring people who presented themselves as dumb. In 2006, Pink had that song “Stupid Girls” that called out celebrities like Jessica Simpson and Paris Hilton for dumbing themselves down. More recently, we had Snooki on Jersey Shore playing up the dumb factor, and one reason among many I was glad when Sarah Palin did not ascend to higher office was because I dreaded how her lack of intelligence, and seeming indifference to her ignorance, would reflect on women everywhere.

It would be awesome if we could live in a world where women didn’t feel like the best way to attract attention is by being pretty and dumb. That would be ideal, but instead we now have this show, where a guy is building his image around being pretty and dumb.

Uh, yea equality?

5. There’s a shortage of platelets available for donation now due to the bombing last week, so consider making an appointment to donate platelets!

A Plea for Help

I don’t normally do this kind of thing- I likely never will again- but Internet, I need your help.

On May 4, I will be running in this 9K race: the Red Sox Runto Home Base. It supports the Home Base Foundation, which raises money for veterans with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. It also supports the development of new treatments for TBI and PTSD and works to lessen the stigma of seeking treatment for these conditions. You can find out more about the Home Base Foundation here:


This is a great cause that I hope you will consider supporting. Consider this:

This is an organization that’s doing a lot of great things to help veterans and their families, and I think we can all agree that no one should have to suffer from the pain of TBI and PTSD.

I must raise $1,000 by 5 PM on April 29, 2013.

As of today, April 15, I’ve raised $120.

Here is the link through which you can donate.

You can also donate by check- information here.

Please help me make this goal! You don’t need to be a veteran, or be related to a veteran, or know a veteran, or know me, for that matter. Every little bit counts, and every little bit is going to help relieve someone’s suffering.

Thank you in advance, from the bottom of my heart.

Bone Marrow Registry

A couple of weeks ago, I got a package in the mail containing four cotton swaps. I took each one, brushed them against the inside of my cheek, put them in an envelope, and mailed them off.

I am now officially a member of the Be the Match Bone Marrow Registry.

Sorry to get serious, but it’s time for me to step up on the soap box. Hey, don’t roll your eyes- I haven’t done this for awhile, and last time I did, it was about something similar—platelet donation.

Last year, I read this wonderful article in the Globe about a teenage cancer patient meeting the woman from England whose bone marrow had saved her life. I had thought about joining the registry before, but this was what convinced me that I had to do it.

There are a lot of people and organizations out there that need help, and there are plenty of ways to volunteer—donating money, donating time, raising awareness. But it’s sometimes hard to quantify exactly how what you’re doing is helping.

But joining the bone marrow registry doesn’t just make you feel good about yourself for volunteering– it literally saves lives. Bone marrow transplants are often the last chance for people with certain types of cancer or other life-threatening illnesses. If you are identified as a match, you undergo a minor surgical procedure to extract some marrow from your pelvic bones and might feel some discomfort afterwards. You are more likely to be a match with someone whose ethnic background is similar to yours. I’m white, and noted on the donation form that I have both Western European and Eastern European ancestry. Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and multiracial donors are especially needed, though. Those of you who fall into any of those categories might particularly want to consider joining the registry.

Here is the site for the Be the Match registry, where you can learn more about becoming a bone marrow donor. You might never be called to donate for anyone, or you might save someone’s life. Just in case the latter turns out to be true, I think it’s worth it.

Platelet Donation

Okay, I don’t usually do this, because I don’t like to sound self-righteous or condescending. But just this once, I am going to step up onto my soapbox and write about an Issue. I figure, I spend enough time detailing my quarter-life crisis and babbling about TV shows, so I might as well write about something that matters.

All right then. So: we know donating blood is a good thing. Most schools have a couple of blood drives every year, and so do a lot of companies. By donating a pint of your blood, you could save three lives. Blah blah blah fishcakes, I’m sure you’ve heard it before.

But until last September, I had never really thought about platelet donation. People with certain types of cancer need to receive platelets, which help stop bruising and bleeding. People who have had major surgery sometimes need platelets, too.

But here’s the thing: platelets only have a shelf life of five days. So donors are constantly needed—they can’t just use platelets someone donated a long time ago.

It’s different from donating blood. For one thing, you can do whatever you planned on doing that day—after donating blood, you’re usually pretty tired. Also, the process takes longer, usually an hour and a half to two hours. They hook you up to this machine that separates the platelets from the rest of your blood, then returns your blood to you.

But here’s the thing: it’s actually kind of fun. Yes, you read that right. Donating platelets is fun. The thing is, it’s not like donating blood, where you’re lying flat on your back on a table. During platelet donation, you’re propped up in this big, comfortable chair, and you can watch TV or a movie, listen to your iPod, read a book or a magazine…whatever you want to do that you can do sitting down. And they’re really nice to you while it’s going on. They’ll give you snacks and sodas, and if you get cold, they’ll get you a blanket.

So let’s review. This can give you the chance to watch a movie you’ve been meaning to see, finish your book, or listen to the new CD you just put on your iPod. After you do it, you can do whatever you planned on doing that night. And did I mention it saves lives? I mean, there are plenty of great ways to volunteer, but this can literally save someone’s life. And considering that one out of three Americans will have cancer at some point in their lives, it might be a favor you’ll need returned at some point.

If you live in New England, you can find a donation center close to you here, and if not, you can find one on the Red Cross web site.

Okay. Getting off the soapbox now. But not before I tell you to go donate platelets.