CHALLENGE ME to finish what was started
On July 15, 2014, professional golfer Chris Kennedy posted a short video on Facebook as a small gesture of support for his cousin Jeanette, of Pelham, NY, whose husband, Anthony Senerchia, was battling ALS. Kennedy dumped a bucket of ice water on his head and challenged his network to either follow suit or make a donation to fight this devastating disease. The video went unnoticed by all but a few of his social media followers. It was not until months later that the significance of this moment would be credited as the start of the largest social media movement in medical history: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
Chris Kennedy could not have foreseen the full impact and scope of his actions. Senerchia accepted his challenge, posted her own video and in turn, challenged her network to get drenched or make a donation to The ALS Association. Then, a young man newly diagnosed with ALS in Yonkers, NY named Pat Quinn, who was connected by one facebook friend to the Senerchia family, took the challenge. Then, a former Boston College baseball team captain named Pete Frates of Beverly, MA, who was diagnosed with ALS at age 27 and was also connected by just one person on social media, took the Challenge.
It was Frates’ involvement that led to participation by Boston’s athletic community, where it immediately caught fire among the city’s professional athletes. Team members of the Red Soxs, Bruins, and Patriots took the Challenge, and then called on others to get involved. Then Boston.com hosted a citywide dousing, challenging the cities of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago to do the same. Before the summer was through, nearly every major sports team, as well as notable individuals such as Bill Gates, George W. Bush, Oprah, Martha Stewart, Jimmy Fallon, Justin Timberlake, Reese Witherspoon, and Lady Gaga were posting their own Ice Bucket Challenge social posts.
The 2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a grassroots, global movement, initiated by many courageous individuals impacted by a disease that has long confounded researchers and cruelly cut short the lives of friends and loved ones. Created by the ALS community, the Challenge generated 17 million social media posts and raised over $200 million dollars worldwide, significantly accelerating ALS research, doubling the size of The ALS Association’s multidisciplinary ALS clinical care network, and increasing funds for the development of assistive technology and other care services for people living with the disease.
This year, on July 15, hundreds gathered in Boston’s Copley Square to commemorate the five-year anniversary of the first Ice Bucket Challenge and to celebrate the three men with ALS who are credited as the “founders” of the iconic movement: Senerchia, who died in 2017, and Quinn and Frates who continue to defy ALS every day. As part of the celebration, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker; ESPN commentator Jonathan “Boog” Sciambi; the Quinn and Frates families; Facebook’s Director of Social Impact Product, Emily Dalton Smith; notable ALS researchers Dr. John Landers and Dr. Merit Cudkowicz; and players from the Boston Bruins joined with The ALS Association to honor everyone in our ALS community, to celebrate the progress made possible through the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and to re-engage supporters to achieve our shared vision of a world without ALS.
While there is still no cure for ALS, there is more progress and collaboration than ever before in the search for treatments and cures. As we reflect on where we have come in the five years since the Challenge, we know that there is still road ahead of us. We will continue our work to raise awareness and funds, and draw inspiration from the people living with this disease who wake up every day and defiantly rise to the challenges ALS presents. And as Pat Quinn said, “The best part about today is that it isn’t a ‘Yankees vs. Red Soxquo; kind of thing. Today shows the world how powerful we can be when we all come together as one team.”
To commemorate the fifth anniversary of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, we’re asking for your help to finish what was started in 2014, when the whole world came together to support our ALS community and the search for effective treatments and cures. You can start by reposting your original ALS Ice Bucket Challenge video or take a new challenge and invite your friends to do the same. Together, we can defeat ALS.
The Challenge Me campaign picks up where the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge left off. On behalf of our Chapter’s Board of Directors and Staff, we invite you to join us and the ALS community in challenging others to participate, advocate, and donate to fuel the search for effective treatments and cures for ALS.