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I try not to get too personal on the company blog but I can’t resist this story.

By now, you’ve no doubt heard of the ALS #icebucketchallenge, the stunt that has taken over social media for the past three weeks. The effort has achieved the manna of “going viral,” the hope and dream of every online marketer. It has also raised awareness and a dazzling amount of money for Lou Gehrig’s disease.

I’ve kept my head down on social media of late because I wanted nothing to do with the challenge – not because of the cause, mostly because I thought the endless videos have become tired. How do you make the millionth video and make it feel fresh? (Let’s call that the marketing connection for this post.)

On Saturday, August 23, 2014, we laid my grandmother to rest. Katherine McLaughlin was 93 and had lived a long, happy and wonderful life. She had 10 children, 16 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. She was the matriarch of a New Hampshire empire – a loving, happy and constant matriarch – and the center of a familial gravitational force that has kept every one of us orbiting Bedford, NH, since the family moved there from Boston in 1957.

At some point in the day, the tone turned from somber to celebration, as most Irish funerals do. (My French-Canadian uncle said at the wake, the previous evening: “it looks more like a party than a wake here.” Such is the Irish Catholic funeral ceremony.)

My cousin John Zahr took the Ice Bucket Challenge the afternoon of the funeral, still dressed in his suit. Someone suggested that he call out his ex-girlfriends, which all we fellow wiseasses strongly suggested he do. Instead he did this:

And so, with all 16 of us cousins gathered in the same place for the first time since 1997, an idea was hatched. We would respond to John’s challenge – in style – and pass the challenge along to our parents. What it turned into, however, was something different, something more: a challenge, a celebration, a catharsis, a tribute.

Some of the shorter videos have already been posted to Facebook but Patrick (safely out of the fray) captured the full melee here:

(Many thanks for indulging me in the 6-minute video.)

 

In all, 14 grandchildren, six children, four in-laws and three great-grandchildren (27 total!) accepted the ALS #icebucketchallenge in true McLaughlin style via the historic and storied pool on the family compound in Bedford, NH.

It was interesting for me to go from complete disinterest to excitement for something that had previously had no meaning for me. Again, that’s the marketing lesson here: making things meaningful for an audience can be a powerful motivator. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went from “overdone” to “oh my God” simply by the addition of cousins, family and celebration. It felt epic and I’m glad I was involved. We will remember that for many years to come.

Final note: I made my donation to ALS. I designated it in memory of Katherine McLaughlin and I hope all my cousins do the same!

 

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