In July 2014, an Ice Bucket challenge video was uploaded to YouTube that was in essence a triple dog dare between cousins for a good cause. The Ice Bucket challenge wasn’t new but it had never picked up as much speed and unified so many around a single cause so quickly. People were being doused with ice way before the ALS Ice Bucket challenge, but thank goodness for the cousins- pledges to support finding a cure for ALS are $15.6 million to date. News headlines sole purpose in life is to grab your attention. When the news has to share space on your computer screen with promises of the lowest mortgage rates in years and something called a vine with a cat that is helping a mouse with the ice bucket challenge, shock value is a must. When I read, “Teens admit to dumping urine on boy with autism in ‘Ice Bucket’ attack” I could feel my cheeks redden and the Garay-Segovia in me quickly stepped in. This happens– kind of like a split personality but not as crazy. The Garay-Segovia in me will be at attention in me when subconsciously my mind knows the new Estela Caballero I have developed into might not be tough enough to handle something. I can’t bring myself to watch it. A friend told me about it– he knows I have a son with autism and expressed how his thoughts turned to our family when he heard what these teenagers had done to a schoolmate with autism.
The newspapers used words like ‘bullying”, “disorderly conduct” and “prank” when they reported the story. Here’s what happened, in early September five teenagers challenged someone to take the ice bucket challenge. Helping other feels good and when it can be turned into something fun, that’s when magic happens. I have watched many of the Ice Bucket challenges and see how it’s about so much more than raising awareness and even bigger than how much money is raised. At the heart of our actions is heart. The five teenagers didn’t have helping anyone in mind. They did something awful. They used all the goodness that had been built with the Ice Bucket ALS challenge to lure a boy with autism to their house. The news account of how this one bad experience played out from start to finish is painful to read. They had time to rethink their choices at so many points. They took turns peeing into a bucket. They spit into a bucket and then they chewed tobacco and spit it into the same bucket– all in preparation for the boy. The boy who could have been my boy. The boy who takes people at their word. He is trusting. They had him strip down to shorts and got out a camera to video take what they had worked so hard to prepare for. Prank, misconduct and even bullying don’t begin to describe their actions. They orchestrated a crime in my mind. I hope the shame sticks with them the rest of their lives and it changes the path they are on. Is this really who each of these boys are? Even if these young men never make another mistake or poor choice in their life, nothing can undo their choice on that day. Unfortunately, this is how they will be remembered for a long time.