BRATTLEBORO -- The latest trend in humanitarian efforts is to simply get doused with water.
In an effort to raise money and/or awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease, people have started to record ice water getting dumped on themselves and post it online. The exact origins of this fad, known as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, are debated, but it has recently spread like wildfire.
And plenty of locals have taken up the cause. The Reformer has found videos of employees at Brattleboro Ford, the Hampton Inn of Brattleboro, the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital's radiology department, the Chester Fire Department and Mount Snow and Stratton Mountain ski resorts -- to name just a few -- getting water poured onto them.
[View local videos,here.]
Videos of people performing the challenge are littered across the Internet and countless celebrities -- including Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, singer Jennifer Lopez, and soccer legend David Beckham -- have joined the ranks of participants. People are asked to have water somehow dumped over their heads, donate $10 to the ALS Association and then "nominate" friends, family members and celebrities to do the same.
ALS is defined as a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. It is a fatal, incurable disease that strikes at random.
Steve Delusa, the service manager at Brattleboro Ford, told the Reformer he took the Ice Bucket Challenge at home with the help of his children on Aug. 17. He said he has known several people who have developed ALS and was excited to have found a way to get the message out. He then challenged some of Brattleboro Ford's employees and posted the video online. By the end of the following Wednesday, the service workers had arranged to have dry clothes ready and employees from the sales floor dumped buckets of water on 13 of their comrades to a roar of laughter from those involved.
"They had a blast. Everybody loved it," Delusa said, adding that everyone involved donated to the cause. "We've got a good group of employees here."
BMH Radiology Coordinator Bridgitte Ferris helped organize her department's Ice Bucket Challenge last week and released a statement to the Reformer about it.
"I thought it would be fun, bring awareness, and show the community that BMH employees care about outside organizations, and care about giving back to the community," she said.
Mount Snow and Stratton Mountain ski resorts decided to get in on the action, too. Lauren Suriani, a graphic designer at Stratton Mountain, said her company was the first ski resort to get involved when her boss, Digital Marketing Manager Rob Chrostowski, was challenged by a close friend. Chrostowski obliged and then challenged staff members and friends to participate. Suriani said the resort contacted the local road department and soon the Stratton staff had two construction loaders dump gallons of melted ice on them.
"It was fantastic. Everyone loved it. The feedback on Facebook was great and we donated on top of that," she said, adding that Stratton contributed $500 to the cause. "We have a health and wellness initiative and I got involved with it about a year ago and I just thought, ‘This ties in perfectly with it,' so why not go ahead and jump on it?"
In the video, Chrostowski nominated four other resorts, including Mount Snow, which orchestrated its own Ice Bucket Challenge within the proper 24-hour span.
David Meeker, the communication manager at Mount Snow, said his people at his company were thinking about doing their own Ice Bucket Challenge and the nomination from his friends at Stratton finally made it happen. On Aug. 15, several staff members bunched up with children of Mount Snow's Outdoor Exploration Camp and stood facing a camera while three people in a ski lift cable car glided up behind them and poured down two buckets of water onto the crowd. Meeker said the kids were swimming at the Mount Snow Grand Summit Hotel and already had their bathing suits with them.
"It was at 10:30 in the morning, 53 degrees, cloudy, misty -- not the ideal conditions. But we had a great response from our staff and that was one of the coolest things about it," he said. "It was awesome. We've had 56 ‘shares.' Almost 250 have ‘liked' it on Facebook and we've gotten a bunch of retweets on Twitter."
Using a loader or ski lift is definitely a different take on the Ice Bucket Challenge, but Guilford resident Drew Christiansen decided to bring it up yet another notch.
He posted to YouTube and Facebook a video of him flipping handwritten messages in a notebook, explaining to the viewer he donated $10 to alsa.org and was taking the challenge -- without a bucket. He then stood up (revealing the was standing atop the bridge near the old Georgia-Pacific building in Brattleboro), dumped a bag of ice into the Connecticut River, gave a nonchalant shrug and jumped 60 to 70 feet into the water below with a ski pole holding his GoPro camera at arm's length.
"We're out here on the river, usually, every weekend -- family and friends -- we've all got boats. And I said, ‘Hey, why don't I climb up there with a bag of ice and a GoPro camera and jump off it?'" he told the Reformer on Tuesday, looking out over the bridge where he had made his charitable leap two days earlier. "I had jumped off it probably two or three before. This was the first time holding anything, let alone a camera. ... I had seen ALS Ice Bucket Challenges, like, every day. And I said, ‘Well, I've got to be able to do something different.'"
Christiansen, who is originally from Vernon and graduated from Brattleboro Union High School in 2001, nominated his mother, father, brother and sister to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, though he does not recommend jumping off a bridge to do it.
He told the Reformer he was nominated three times and realized he needed to up the ante. He decided to do his stunt after learning more about the ailment that has spawned the challenge. He said the $10 donation and the $2 he paid for the bag of ice at Neighbor's on Canal Street was a small price to pay to generate awareness.
"I really had no idea what ALS was until all (the challenges) started happening. I did a little Googling and realized it was Lou Gehrig's (disease), and I had heard of that, just never knew what could happen to you and it just looks like a really bad disease that needs some more money to try to find cures," he said. "In the back of my mind, I probably just wanted something a little different to raise more awareness. ... My 2-year-old (son) loved it. He tells people, ‘Daddy jumps off bridges' now. My mom was not pleased, but she knows that I'm stubborn and I was going to do it anyway."
Christiansen said he got onto the bridge via a rope tied to it and then shimmied up a truss. He swam to his father's boat -- carrying his father, mother and son -- after hitting the water. When asked if he was afraid the stunt was illegal, he said he has some friends who are local police officers and they told him people have been jumping off that bridge for many years.
"If anybody says anything to me, I'll be like, ‘Hey, it's for charity,'" he told the Reformer.
But Christiansen's jump isn't the only controversial aspect of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Though Forbes reports the trend has raised $100 million for the cause this month (a 3,500 percent increase from the same time period last year), some critics have suggested it is a self-serving venture disguised as generous charity by people who want to show off their summer beach bodies and post videos of themselves online. Some have stressed that the point of the challenge is to donate money and others have said it is a waste of clean drinking water. The stunt has even proven to be potentially fatal, as a Scottish teenager named Cameron Lancaster reportedly died after apparently jumping off a cliff into deep water as part of a challenge.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.