Caring: Ice Bucket Challenge inspires Rockford-area nonprofits

ROCKFORD — The immensely popular Ice Bucket Challenge benefitting the ALS Association hasn’t just been crowding your Facebook feed.


It’s also turning the world of marketing and fundraising on its head.

Skeptics may have thought the challenge — in which a person opts to donate money or pour a bucket of ice water on his or her head — was more for show than an altruistic way to donate money to fight the neurodegenerative disorder often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

But those skeptics have been proven wrong, the association says, to the tune of $94.3 million as of Wednesday. That compares with $2.6 million raised during the same time period, July 29 to Aug. 27, last year. Much of that money has come from 2.1 million new donors.

The huge wave of new donors has some local nonprofits and groups excited about the future of fundraising and truly stunned by the power of social media.

A quick survey of area nonprofit organizations this week showed that they’re not necessarily worried that donations to ALS will somehow divert money from their efforts. They’re just hopeful the spirit of giving will stay strong.

“What the Ice Bucket Challenge has shown is that people naturally have a large capacity to give,” said Roman Salamon, director of communications and marketing for the United Way of Rock River Valley.

“The challenge, efforts like Transform Rockford, those movements turn on the internal philanthropic switch in people and get people in the spirit of giving.”

United Way will kick off its fundraising efforts for the year on Sept. 12. The agency is harnessing social media, using the hashtag #pointofu to get residents to share stories of real people making local neighborhoods better places to live.

Salamon and others acknowledged being a little jealous at not being first to think of a concept as grand as the Ice Bucket Challenge.

“You can’t deny the impact that it’s had on that organization,” Salamon said. “It’s just grown tremendously. Hats off to their marketing team.”

Lisa Novak, executive director of Northern Illinois Hospice and Grief Center, said she’s been impressed that the Ice Bucket Challenge has attracted participants of all ages.

“If you can teach children that people can benefit by their giving, you can’t get any better than that,” Novak said.

But the viral nature of the challenge also reflects the changing demographics of fundraising, a trend many nonprofits are trying to address.

“You look at people in the philanthropic community, and many of them don’t fit the social media profile,” Novak said. “So many people who have the money and the drive to donate are often in their 50s and older. We don’t have the demographic data on these (challenge) donors, but if the videos are an illustration, it’s many ages.”

There’s also the real challenge of sustaining eager new donors.

“Does every organization want that kind of magic? Absolutely,” said Erna Colborn, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Illinois Chapter. “We would love to find more people who are that passionate about doing something and having fun while doing that.

“The challenge is for long-term fundraising. We have many committed donors who have been with us for years and years, and we continue to work with them. I think (the ALS Association) has a huge challenge in front of them now in how to convert those donors into regular donors for the organization and keep them.”

Novak and others said they haven’t heard of any donations being diverted from local charities because of the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Donations haven’t changed so far this summer at the American Cancer Society in Rockford, and participation in this year’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk on Oct. 18 is on the rise, said Emily Lapinski, senior manager of community events.

“We encourage everybody to choose an organization and make donations,” Lapinski said. “What’s fun and key about the (Ice Bucket Challenge) is that anybody can do it.”

The American Cancer Society does a social media campaign encouraging people to change their Facebook and Twitter profile photos purple. Chevrolet contributes up to $1 million total for all the “purpled” photos through the Purple Roads website.

Colborn said the Alzheimer’s Association has received some donations from people mentioning the Ice Bucket Challenge. She’s seen some videos online of people naming the organization, and some checks have come in with references to the challenge.

Some people say they are donating half their money to ALS and half to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Colborn said the organization soon will work with a major national consulting firm to look at how to improve the chapter’s social media efforts because “it’s such a huge part of how we get the word out and how we engage with people.”

“It’s so important how we communicate these days,” Colborn said. “It’s all about relationships, building relationships with your donors so they completely understand what your organization is. The challenge the ALS Association has is how do they build relationships now with that many people all at once and sustain it. I wish them every success in that.”

Melissa Westphal: 815-987-1341;; @mlwestphal

If you goWhat: Walk to Defeat ALSWhen: 9 a.m. Sept. 20Where: Rockford Aviators Stadium, 4503 Interstate Blvd., Loves ParkDetails: The event is hosted by The ALS Association Greater Chicago Chapter. More than 400 people participated last year, and the event raised about $55,000. The public is invited to participate in groups or as individuals, to help sponsor a team or show support for ALS patients, their family and friends.Contact:

Rockford Host to Japanese Summer Festival

ROCKFORD, IL–The Anderson Japanese Gardens celebrated the third annual Japanese Summer Festival.

The two-day event is a celebration of traditional cultural arts.

Visitors have the opportunity to explore exhibits and check out performances,

Guests can even part-take in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.

“People seem really happy to be here,” said Tim Gruner, the garden curator, “so many positive things going on.”

The Japanese gardens offer a twelve acre landscape with plenty to see.

The scenery includes winding paths and calm streams–there’s even a waterfall!

Founding family member, David Anderson, says families come to Rockford specifically for this event.

“It’s pretty special to feel, you know, right here in Rockford, that we have one of the highest quality Japanese gardens, not only in North America, but outside of Japan,” said Anderson.


Letter: A future built on education

We hear so much about the importance of education, but we hear little about preparing children for education.

If we are going to transform Rockford, we need to get a message to parents — education starts at birth! Parents, please sing to your baby and read to them soon after birth. Interact with them every day, count steps, name flowers and birds, etc.

When your child starts school, talk to their teachers, provide healthy meals, get your children plenty of rest and provide a safe, stable environment. What if every home had an hour of quiet every evening without TV or electronic devices.

Those of us who have already raised our families can read to neighbor children or volunteer at a school. Spending one hour a week as a reading tutor can encourage a teacher and make a difference to one or two children. Each of us can do something to transform Rockford.

— Cheryl Bengston, Rockford


Join WREX Friday at City Market for community Ice Bucket Challenge

Posted: Aug 21, 2014 11:56 AM CDT

ROCKFORD (WREX) – It’s the social media phenomenon sweeping the country while raising awareness and money to help fight ALS. On Friday, WREX invites you to Rockford’s City Market to take part in the Ice Bucket Challenge!

From 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. WREX will have a dunk tank filled with ice and water and will allow anyone to take their own Ice Bucket Challenge.

In order to participate, you must make a minimum donation of $1 but you are free to donate more! 100% of the money donated will go directly to the ALS Association.  So invite your friends, family, co-workers and whoever else you can think of to come down to City Market on Friday from 5:00-6:30 to be a part of this incredible cause!

If you’ve already done the Ice Bucket Challenge, that’s okay, do it again! The more people who participate the better!

We look forward to seeing everyone for the WREX Ice Bucket Challenge! If you can’t make it, you can still donate to the ALS Association by clicking HERE:


The Arts: Rockford Art Museum Installs First Sculpture on Rockford Riverwalk


ROCKFORD (WIFR) — The Rockford Art Museum (RAM) installed its first sculpture on the Rockford Riverwalk, along the west side of the Rock River, in downtown Rockford this summer.

The yellow steel sculpture, Untitled 1, was created in 1973 by Robert Engman, and is now one of many pieces of public art from the RAM Permanent Collection that are installed around Rockford.

For decades the sculpture was on view in front of CherryVale Mall. After the mall and CBL and Associates Properties, Inc. gifted the artwork to RAM, it was moved to Joseph Behr and Sons; Chairman of the Board Dick Behr generously donated all transportation, storage, refurbishment and installation costs – and personally oversaw its restoration to public view on the Riverwalk.

The Rockford Riverwalk is adjacent to Riverfront Museum Park, 711 North Main Street, which houses Rockford Art Museum.

Other pieces of public art from the RAM Permanent Collection include:
The Big Chair by Jim Julin—RAM’s Armer Ahlstrand Sculpture Garden, 711 North Main St
Inland Passage by Michael Dunbar—711 North Main St
World of Information by Josh Garber—711 North Main St
Twin Fin, Too by Bruce White—711 North Main St
Rockmen Guardians by Terese Agnew—Rock River Recreation Path
Inlet Markers by Robert McCauley—Rock River Recreation Path
Suspended Motion by Gene Horvath—Hwy 251 / Ethel Ave, near Nicholas Conservatory
The Photographer by J. Seward Johnson, Jr.—outside Nicholas Conservatory


Camp for Grown Up Kids: Today at 1pm

Camp for Grown Up Kids- Wearable Book

August 21, 2014    1:00 PM – 3:00 PM

Throughout history, the book has been both art as well as a means of presenting information. After observing minerals and shells (which have been used in bookmaking in the past), you will make a tiny book which will be placed on a pendant to wear. Thin sheets of mica will be available for your piece of art.*

*All supplies provided; however, if you have a particular paper or fabric you wish to use, bring it!

Ticket Info

Cost: Space is limited.

Pre-registration and pre-payment required. Fee per session is $15 for members, $20 for non-members.

More Info: 815.965.3433