In the past few weeks, social media feeds like Facebook and Twitter have been full of people dumping buckets of ice water over their heads.
Actors, musicians, administrators, TV personalities and many others have been taking part in the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” a cause that spreads awareness and raises money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis research.
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, eventually leading to death.
The Ice Bucket Challenge is an activity involving dumping a bucket of ice water on one’s head or donating to the ALS Association in the United States.
The challenge dares nominated participants to be filmed having a bucket of ice water poured on their heads, followed by nominating more people or organizations to take the challenge. A common stipulation is that nominated people have 24 hours to comply or forfeit by way of a charitable financial donation.
The Waterloo School District kicked off the countywide surge of challenges last Tuesday, bringing in a fire truck from the Waterloo Fire Department to drench supporters and teachers who came to participate.
Kelly Lerch, the district wellness coordinator, said she was contacted by a few teachers who wanted to do the challenge in memory of past Waterloo sixth grade teacher Angela Leifeld, who died in 2011 from ALS.
“It was the perfect opportunity to pull together as staff, do something for ALS research and kick off a great school year,” Lerch said. “I am really proud of our staff, as they always step up when there is a need.”
Waterloo school superintendent Brian Charron said it was particularly special because Leifeld’s family participated with the faculty and staff.
“Angela’s family joined us in what felt like a celebration for those participating in getting sprayed by the fire truck,” he said. “At the same time, it provided a sense of unity and was a healthy start to our school year. We owe a huge thank you to Chief Mark Yeager and the Waterloo Fire Department for helping us realize this challenge, and we have sincere appreciation for our friends in Monroe County that accepted our challenge to them.”
After completing the challenge, Waterloo nominated Gibault Catholic High School and the Columbia and Valmeyer school districts.
Columbia completed their challenge Thursday using the Columbia Fire Department’s ladder truck, and Valmeyer completed their challenge Friday by letting students dump cups of ice water over their teachers.
Columbia reported raising funds in addition to participating, and nominated teachers and faculty at Freeburg and Dupo schools.
Columbia school superintendent Gina Segobiano said they all benefited from participating in the Ice Bucket Challenge.
“Knowing that a neighboring school district lost one of their very own teachers to ALS, the faculty and staff at Columbia were motivated to participate and honor Angela Leifeld,” Segobiano said. “The Ice Bucket Challenge was a ‘refreshing’ way to raise funds and educate our students and staff on the disease and research. Thanks, again, to Superintendent Charron for passing along the challenge and involving area school districts.”
Valmeyer raised more than $2,500 for ALS and nominated the Valmeyer Fire Department, Valmeyer Police Department and Mayor Howard Heavner.
Teena Riechmann, the elementary principal at Valmeyer, said they were thrilled to be nominated by Waterloo.
“We were excited to meet the challenge and add our own spin on it,” she said. “Teachers paid $10 to participate, and students paid $5 to pour the water. Jacob Killy brought in $200 and was given the honor to pour ice water on Eric Frankford, our superintendent. It was a great way to start the new school year for students and staff.”
Gibault said they plan to do the challenge this week.
Other notable community members and organizations have participated, including Monroe County Board Chairman Delbert Wittenauer, First National Bank of Waterloo President Gary Hemmer, Waterloo Mayor Tom Smith, Columbia Mayor Kevin Hutchinson, Columbia Alderman Gene Ebersohl, Columbia EMS Chief Shannon Bound, Waterloo Chamber of Commerce member George Obernagel and Columbia High School principal Jason Dandurand, the staff of Garden Place in Waterloo, the Red Bud Fire Department, the Waterloo Optimists, Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic School teachers, and the Prairie du Rocher Fire Department.
JV’s Downtown Bar & Grill did their challenge in honor of Waterloo native Chris Benyo and his wife, Denise, who suffers from ALS.
As of Aug. 26, the ALS Association has received $88.5 million in donations compared to $2.6 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to Aug. 26). These donations have come from existing donors and 1.9 million new donors to the association.
To learn more, or to donate to the cause, visit www.alsa.org.