The Connection Between the Ice Bucket Challenge and the Cold Water Challenge

The Ice Bucket Challenge has been sweeping the Nation these past several weeks. It is refreshing to see the challenge raise so much money for ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s Disease) research. More on ALS at the bottom.

I have been watching the Ice Bucket Challenge trend and I can’t help think that the fire service trended it first. It isn’t a big deal, I just thought I would explain a little bit about this years CWC and IBC. The truth of the matter is that several charities got a lot of funds they weren’t expecting due to these challenges going viral.

nfff_frontWhile polar plunges have been going on for decades, they are larger groups of people running into the cold water and typically a scheduled event. Polar Plunges are typically a fundraiser for Special Olympics. Prior to the Polar Plunge becoming a fundraising event, it was a way for people to ring in the New Year.

As far as the beginning of this years viral “Cold Water Challenge goes: A firefighter in Pennsylvania set up the Cold Water Challenge as a way of challenging others to raise money for a local cause. If I have my story correct, the local cause was a boy who needed help with medical expenses. I have read a lot about this starting elsewhere and it is my belief it began in PA. It doesn’t really matter, because the challenge grew exponentially and raised a lot of money for charity.

I guess because it began in PA by firefighters, other firefighters continued it on and picked other charities. For the fire service, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation became the most popular charity to donate to. The NFFF last shared that they had received upwards of $180k due to the Cold Water Challenge. However, there were many charities used across the Nation for the CWC.

Probably the best Cold Water Challenge video is here!

The challenge went viral, crossing the United States back and forth. Videos were shared online of some very unique ways of doing the challenge…one of which was with a bucket of ice. While the CWC began in late winter/spring when the water was still cold, it went through summer when the water became warm. Plus, we had firefighters completing the challenge in warm weather such as Florida. Due to the warm weather, many used buckets or coolers filled with ice water to complete their challenge.

As the challenge made it’s pass through the fire service, there was some outside of the fire service who got involved and did it for their own charities.

Then, in the past several weeks, the challenge reemerged as the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS. I do not know who started it up for the cause, but it amazed me at how it regained so much strength. Then again, when you have so many celebrities get involved it was clear to me that the more mainstream ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was going to be much bigger than the Cold Water Challenge the fire service saw.

What amazed me was how the two are connected…not only by virtue of the actual challenge, but beings that ALS is a form of Muscular Dystrophy. The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) is probably the largest benefactor of funds raised by firefighters. For years (60 to be exact), the International Association of Fire Fighters have raised money through Fill-The-Boot campaigns for MDA. Millions of dollars (530 million) have been raised by IAFF firefighters just for MDA.

To be clear on the Ice Bucket Challenge, I do not know if most are giving to the MDA for ALS research or to the ALS Foundation. They appear to be two different organizations.

What is the NFFF?

Congress created the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation to lead a nationwide effort to honor America’s fallen firefighters. Since 1992, the non-profit Foundation has developed and expanded programs that fulfill that mandate. Our mission is to honor and remember America’s fallen fire heroes and to provide resources to assist their survivors in rebuilding their lives and work within the Fire Service Community to reduce firefighter deaths.

Each October, the Foundation sponsors the official national tribute to all firefighters who died in the line of duty during the previous year. Thousands attend the weekend activities held at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland. The Weekend features special programs for survivors and coworkers along with moving public ceremonies. (source)

What is ALS?

ALS, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a disease of the parts of the nervous system that control voluntary muscle movement. Nerve cells that control muscle cells are gradually lost, causing the muscles to become weak and eventually nonfunctional. Walking, talking, eating, hugging and even breathing become nearly impossible, although the mind stays sharp. Most people with ALS live 3 to 5 years after diagnosis. To learn more, click on the topics about ALS to the right. (source)