Ice bucket challenge: why are celebrities getting soaked?

Bill Gates

Internet is awash with videos of Justin Bieber and and Bill Gates drenching themselves with ice water

LAST UPDATED AT 12:39 ON Mon 18 Aug 2014

Justin Bieber, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates are among the celebrities to take part in the latest craze flooding social media: the ice bucket challenge. It started in the US and has recently caught on in the UK too – with Ricky Gervais and Manchester United's Darren Fletcher taking part. So what's it all about? 

What is the ice bucket challenge?

The challenge was designed to raise money and awareness for the neurodegenerative illness amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Nominees have to pour a bucket of freezing cold water over their heads while being filmed and then donate money to the ALS Association. Those who are nominated but forfeit the challenge must donate a larger sum of money.

What is ALS?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis affects the brain and the spinal cord, making it increasingly difficult to move muscles. Sufferers feel very weak and, in the later stages of the illness, can become totally paralysed. Money raised by the ALS Association will go towards researching its causes and a potential cure. The illness is also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, named after the famous baseball player whose career ended when he was struck down by the illness in the 1930s.

How much has the ice bucket challenge raised?

The ALS Association says it has raised $13.3m (£8m) in the last three weeks compared to $1.7m (£1m) during the same period last year. In the UK, some people have also been doing the challenge for Macmillan Cancer Support.

Who else has taken on the challenge?

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, TV host Oprah Winfrey and singer Justin Timberlake have all risen to the challenge. Microsoft founder Bill Gates took it one step further, telling viewers he wanted to "do it better than it's been done" by designing his own ice bucket contraption. Cristiano Ronaldo stripped down to his underwear for a soaking, while Ricky Gervais and Manchester United's Darren Fletcher have also taken part. Justin Bieber posted a video of himself pouring a saucepan of water on his head and nominated US President Barack Obama, chat show host Ellen DeGeneres and comedian Chris D'Elia to reciprocate. But after coming under fire for not using a bucket – or any ice – he posted a second video of himself pouring a bucket of water over his head and nominating "Beliebers all over the world". Obama reportedly forfeited and gave $100 to charity.

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