The Cold Water Challenge…What is it Exactly? Is it Making a Difference?

Above is one of the better Cold Water Challenge Videos I have seen!

What is the Cold Water Challenge? Where did the Cold Water Challenge originate? How long has it been going on? You might have asked yourself this question if you have spent any time on Facebook recently. You might also wonder if it is making a difference. I assure you it is. One of the main charities that is being used is the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. They have witnessed an influx in $10-$100 donations in the past weeks. Scroll down with a message from the NFFF.

I first saw it a couple of months ago. I watched as it continued to grow in the fire service. While I thought that it was pretty popular at the time, I was wrong. It is everywhere now.

I was curious of where it began. I am not sure I am any closer to finding out where it began though.

What is the Cold Water Challenge? As best as I can find, the challenge moving through the fire service is this:

  1. You are nominated to complete the challenge by someone who has done just that.
  2. You have 24 hours to complete the challenge AND donate $10 or $20 to the charity of choice as defined by the person nominating you.
  3. If you are unable to complete the challenge, you donate $50 or $100 to the charity they defined.
  4. The amount of the donations varies. The most common is $10 if you complete it, $100 if you do not. 
  5. If you complete the challenge, upload the video of you completing it to Facebook or Youtube and nominating 5 more individuals to Facebook.

So you can see, the number of people participating multiplies quickly and exponentially.

As best as I can find, the challenge is a unsanctioned spin-off of the polar plunge most widely used by the Special Olympics as a fundraiser.

There have been many local Cold Water Challenges that have benefited a local group or beneficiary by local organizations.

In the fire service, most firefighters have either dove into a body of water, had a trashcan full of water dumped on them, jumped into a drop tank, or gotten soaked by a stream of water from fire hose.

I was nominated by Josh Waldo and Kestin Wiemer within 24 hours. I was unable to complete my challenge so I donated $100 to the Wounded Warrior Project as one of them had requested. Without the challenge, I never would have donated to the WWP simply because I support other organizations. I appreciate the chance to donate to the WWP and I am sure they are thankful for my donation.

Among firefighters, the most popular organization to donate to has been the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. You can make your donations to the NFFF here.

It seems as though the purpose of the challenge has been lost by some. Whether you complete the challenge or not, you still have to donate to the organization of choice by the person who nominated you. If you complete it, the amount of donation is less than if you cannot complete it.

I have not heard of any firefighters getting injured doing the cold water challenge, but there have been some reported by others. Please be safe in completing the challenge. Do not jump into water that you do not know the depth. Never dive into water you cannot see through.

The National Fallen Firefighters Association released this message today:

To the cold and wet (or warm and dry) the NFFF says Thanks!

The 24-Hour Cold Water Challenge has captured the creative minds and generous hearts of many firefighters, survivors and NFFF supporters. To those who are taking the plunge – literally or figuratively – and picking the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation as your charity, we thank you.

In the past week alone, we have received nearly 250 donations in amounts of $10 or $100, and more are coming in every day. Your donation will directly help the survivors of fallen firefighters.

As you know, safety is one of the key missions of the Foundation. We urge you to keep that in mind if you accept a challenge.

You can fulfill your challenge obligation by going to and be sure to click on the Cold Water Challenge box. You can then show others that you’ve fulfilled your promise from your confirmation screen by sharing on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and email. You can also send a check to National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, P.O. Drawer 498, Emmitsburg, MD 21727 and earmarking it as Cold Water Challenge.

Best of luck to all of those who are being “called-out” by a friend or colleague. If you post a video on social media, feel free to tag the Foundation. And please, be safe.

The video below shows a challenge and donations to the NFFF. They even up the ante a bit.

My donation to the WWP

My donation to the WWP