Three weeks ago, many of us had never heard of the "Ice Bucket Challenge." Today, it seems everyone's talking about it. Who would have thought that homemade videos of ice water being dumped on the heads of our friends would help raise awareness for a little-known disease along with millions for charity?

So how did the Ice Bucket Challenge begin, when will it end, and what will become of all those funds? Read on.

How did the Ice Bucket Challenge start?

This one is a bit of a point of contention.

For months now, several groups, from athletes to Christian groups have been pouring ice-cold water over themselves and filming it, sometimes simply for fun. The challenge grew in popularity this spring among both pro and amateur golfers, but it wasn't until former pro golfer Greg Norman challenged NBC anchor Matt Lauer to the challenge that it hit the mainstream.

Back then, the idea was to either take the bucket of cold water on your head or donate $100 to a charity of your choice. A minor-league golfer in Florida named Chris Kennedy may have been the first to dedicate his ice bucket challenge to ALS research, but ALS Canada says it was really Pete Frates, a former Boston College baseball player who has ALS himself, who really got the challenge going back on July 29.

Since that date, millions of videos of ice bucket challenges have been uploaded to Facebook and Twitter in the last month, growing exponentially in popularity in recent weeks, and creating what many could argue has been one of the most viral fundraising campaigns in years.

How much has been raised?

ALS Canada says it has seen more than $5.6 million donated since July 29, forcing it to raise its fundraising goal several times as the money keeps pouring in.

Just a few days ago, on Aug. 20, the ALS Society of Canada was amazed to find the challenge had raised $1 million. Five days later, that number was up to $5 million. The group's current fundraising goal is now at $7.5 million, and could yet change again.

The ALS Association in the U.S says it has received more than $70.2 million from the #IceBucketChallenge since July 29. In the U.K., where ALS is known as Motor Neurone Diseases, the MND association has raised more than 700,000 British pounds, or Cdn $1.2 million.

What are the rules?

Originally, when one was nominated to do the Ice Bucket Challenge, they had to donate $100 to a charity within 24 hours or film themselves getting a bucket of ice water dumped on their heads. They then nominated three others to do the challenge too.

But as the movement has grown, it seems most people are choosing to both donate money to their local ALS society as well as get a bucket of water dumped on their heads. How much money people donate appears to be up for grabs, with some donating $10, others donating $100, and perhaps others donating much more.

How will the funds be spent?

Rebecca Grima, the spokesperson for the ALS Society of Canada, says the sudden windfall of funds has arrived completely unexpectedly and it's still not clear how much money will be in the coffers once the #IceBucketChallenge fades out, as it ineveitably will.

"I keep saying: it's the public who started this and it's really them who owns this. So we're just so glad they've been so generous to allow us to be the beneficiary of this fundraising," she told

For now, decisions about how the money will be divvied up have yet to be made, Grima says. Each provincial arm of the ALS Society has their own budgets and their own revenue streams, she explained, but they will gather together soon to decide how to allocate the funds.

What kind of research is underway?

Janice Robertson, an ALS researcher from the Tanz Centre in Toronto, says the Ice Bucket Challenge has been a huge success both in fundraising and in raising awareness of a disease that many knew little about until this summer.

There is currently no cure for ALS, and Robertson says the causes of the illness are still a mystery. While several genes that appear to play a role in the disease have been found, only five to 10 per cent of cases are thought to be inherited, she told CTV’s Canada AM.

Robertson says the hope is that with all the research underway around the world, the genetic discoveries will soon lead to a better understanding of the mechanism of this disease.

"And the more people working on it, with more cash, more ideas, it's certainly going to lead to better chances of getting a therapy to the clinic," she said.

What else does the ALS Society of Canada fund besides research?

The ALS Society of Canada raises money both for research as well as for client services, providing equipment to patients and their families, organizing support groups and bereavement, and helping families apply for Compassionate Care benefits from the federal government.

Grima says raising awareness about ALS has always been one of the biggest challenges of the ALS Society. But all that has changed this summer with the Ice Bucket Challenge. So it's likely, she says, that the portion of the budget dedicated to awareness can be scaled back, leaving perhaps more money for research.