ROCKINGHAM — The latest viral social media dare was seemingly without meaning at its inception. One person would make a video of him- or herself diving into or being doused with ice-cold water while “calling out” three friends expected to do the same within 24 hours of accepting the dare.
But in Richmond County and other communities across the country, the cold-water challenge has taken on real meaning in the form of raising awareness of charitable organizations and their needs.
Nina Morrison of Rockingham was among the first to call out co-workers at the Richmond County Tax Assessor’s Office when she targeted Vagas Jackson.
“I think it was just somebody started it and it went viral and got to us here,” Morrison said. “You call out your friends. You start by making a video and naming a charity of your choice, and you’re pledging to donate $10 to that charity. Then, you get a bucket of cold water poured over your head while the video is still running, and after you upload that you tag your Facebook friends to challenge them. When a friend accepts the challenge, they have 24 hours to make their video. If they do it, they get to donate $10 to a charity of their choice, but if they don’t, they have to pay your charity $100.”
Morrison explained that it’s all in good fun, and that no one actually shows up at anyone’s door for not accepting the challenge — or for not paying the $100. It’s all on the honor system and no one is judging anyone else.
Michelle Holden, another co-worker at the tax office, said Jackson challenged her after he accepted and completed Morrison’s challenge.
“I donated $10 to the humane society,” Holden said. “And I have challenged a few people, too. I’ve tried to pick people I think would do it because some people don’t like it. I don’t know why, but they don’t.”
Morrison said this challenge is an excellent way to remind people that charitable donations are not limited to the Christmas season, but can and should happen throughout the year.
“A lot of people like to donate to (Richmond County) Hospice, the Humane Society of Richmond County, Boy Scouts and Relay for Life,” Morrison said.
As for the stigma surrounding viral campaigns on the Internet, Holden believes the cold-water challenge proves they are not all bad.
“I think people enjoy watching the videos of people getting poured with cold water,” Holden said. “Sometimes there is so much negativity around social media, but this is a positive for it. You can get so many more people involved because it’s much more broad; you can tag people and it doesn’t matter if they live in Richmond County or another county or state.”
Another tax office co-worker, Tarsha Covington, agrees that the cold water challenge helps charities in the community.
“I accepted the challenge,” Covington said. “I’m a cancer survivor, so I will donate to Relay for Life.”
Vagas Jackson finds social media a powerful way to reach out and get involved, and said that the cold-water challenge isn’t only for adults.
“My son Micah did it, and he’s only 10,” Jackson said. “Other kids have done it as well. It’s a great way for them to learn about the importance of giving back. And I like it. I mean, it beats any other challenge I’ve done, and I’ve done a lot of them for nothing.”
Reach reporter Melonie Flomer at 910-997-3111, ext. 15.