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Charity cashes in on ice challenges

A Scottish charity has more than doubled its annual fundraising total in the last 10 days, thanks to the ice bucket challenge craze.

STEPHEN HAWKING: His children took the challenge on his behalf.
STEPHEN HAWKING: His children took the challenge on his behalf.

As a result of the viral online fundraising event, MND Scotland has received almost £300,000, against total individual donations last year of £125,000.

The charity took 264 text donations in all of 2013 but has logged 43,000 since people began challenging each other to douse themselves with icy water or pay a donation to help tackle Motor Neurone Disease.

In America, where the disease is known as ALS, and in the UK, the online phenomenon has seen celebrities, politicians and business people posting online films of themselves taking part.

Physicist Stephen Hawking, who has MND, yesterday became the latest public figure to participate, although he persuaded his children to take a drenching in his place.

The Cambridge academic said he was keen to support the English charity Motor Neurone Disease Association by taking part. In a posting on YouTube, Professor Hawking said: "Because I had pneumonia last year, it would not be wise for me to have a bucket of cold water poured over me. But my children, Robert, Lucy and Tim, gallantly volunteered to take the challenge for me."

He went on to nominate his own victims, including Lord Sainsbury, chancellor of Cambridge University, and its vice-chancellor professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz.

MND Scotland has set up a text donation system enabling people to support its local work, and advertised it on social media.

Iain Macwhirter, the charity's head of fundraising, said the explosion of interest had been a learning curve. "It has been spectacular. One month ago few people knew what Motor Neurone Disease was, now everybody is talking about it. We are incredibly grateful."

He shrugged off the findings of a survey published yesterday that claimed fewer than 50% of those taking part in the ice bucket craze on social media had given any money to charity.

Mr McWhirter added: "It is very difficult to tell if all the people sharing films on Facebook and Twitter are donating. We are delighted if people make a donation but would never criticise people who don't, or put pressure on people to do so. We are just stunned by how many people have taken part.

"This money will help pay for care and support and more research to find a cure. This is an incurable disease but there is a cure out there and our work will not be done until we find it."

The charities in the UK and America that are benefiting are incredibly fortunate, he said, as none had initiated the ice bucket challenge.

Instead, it was started by an individual in America fundraising for a friend with the illness. It was once people with a high social media profile, including Bill Gates and celebrities, took part that the online event took off.

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