person after dumping a bucket of ice water on themselves

Ice Bucket Challenge

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Ice Bucket Challenge is a dare game in which the participant must pour a bucket of ice water over his or her head and nominate any three individuals to perform the same challenge within the next 24 hours, in a similar set up to the viral drinking game Neknomination. If a nominee fails to complete the challenge within time, he or she is expected to donate money to a charitable organization, most notably for research and treatment of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.


Precursor: Cold Water Challenge

In March 2014, residents in Grundy County, Tennessee started jumping into freezing water as part of a fundraising campaign to buy a service dog for Madi Rogers, one year-old toddler diagnosed with severe juvenile diabetes. Dubbed the Cold Water Challenge, it asks the participant to jump into a cold lake or other body of water, donate to Madi Rogers’ fundraiser campaign, and nominate someone else to do the same. One of the earliest examples uploaded to YouTube was uploaded by YouTuber Jessica Lagle on March 8th, 2014.

Ice Bucket Challenge

While the origin of the Ice Bucket Challenge remains murky, one of the earliest known videos of an individual pouring ice cold water over the head was uploaded to Instagram by professional motocross racer Jeremy McGrath on June 22nd, 2014, per nomination from Brett Saunders. After completing the challenge, McGrath challenged professional golfer Rickie Fowler and NASCAR racer Jimmie Johnson, as well as rapper Vanilla Ice to complete the challenge or pay $100 to charity.

Through the rest of June 2014, the challenge quickly gained traction among professional golfers, prompting the hosts of Golf Channel's weekday program Morning Drive to perform a live, on-air ice bucket challenge on June 30th.


On July 14th, 2014, the challenge began drawing mainstream attention after American TV journalist Matt Lauer completed the Ice Bucket Challenge on The Today Show and nominated Martha Stewart to do the same.

ALS Fundraiser

In its beginning, many participants in the ice bucket challenge named specific organizations for charitable donations, but by late July, it had become largely affiliated with a fundraiser for the ALS Foundation. On July 15th, Florida-based professional golfer Chris Kennedy uploaded a YouTube video of himself completing the challenge per nomination and named his cousin Jeanett Senerchia, whose husband Anthony has had been diagnosed with ALS for over a decade, and two other individuals to do the same, or donate $100 to the ALS Foundation.

On the following day, Senerchia accepted the challenge and posted a video of herself fulfilling the request with her 6-year-old daughter. The video was seen by Pat Quinn, a 31-year-old Yonkers, New York resident and ambassador for the ALS foundation, who then went on to further spread the challenge among his network of friends before launching a Facebook group[1] titled Quinn for the Win, along with a set of rules for a dare game dubbed the "Ice Bucket Challenge":

"You take the challenge [dumping a bucket of ice water over your head] then nominate others to do the same within 24 hours!! If they fail the challenge they must donate $100 to !

Among those who took notice of Quinn's Facebook page was Pete Frates, a former captain of the Boston College baseball team and ASL patient, who then began promoting the challenge through Twitter and encouraging others within his Boston-area network to join in. On July 31st, 2014, Frates[3] posted a video on his Facebook page nominating 11 people, including The Howard Stern Show. As of August 2014, the video has gained over 500 likes.


Within 24 hours of being challenged, participants can either take on the quest by uploading videos in which they announce their acceptance, pour a bucket full of ice over their heads and then nominate one or more people to do the same, or opt-out of the challenge by donating $100 to a charity. The stipulations of the donation rule may vary from one group to another; in one version, the participant is asked to donate $10 if the challenge is completed or donate $100 when opting-out, while in another version, completing the challenge exempts the participant from the donation rule, which has been criticized by some as a prime example of slacktivism.

News Media Coveraage

On July 30th, Rachel Maddow, the host of The Rachel Maddow Show, accepted the challenge and uploaded it to their YouTube channel[5]. Within a week, the video has gained over 40,000 views.

On August 6th, ESPN[6] posted a collection of ice bucket challenge videos posted by Boston and college athletes. On August 7th, Elle Magazine[2] published an article titled "This Is Why the Ice Bucket Challenge Is Actually a Big Deal" which explained the challenge and featured a video in which Elle staff members are shown completing the challenge and nominating a number of celebrities:

",, ELLE cover girls Kristen Wiig and Anna Kendrick, man-hunk Ryan Gosling, Vin Diesel, and Rob Kardashian"

That same day, the challenge was covered by many sites including Yahoo[7], Boston[8] and Business Insider.[9]

Drew Carey Targets Pranksters

On September 3rd, 2014, the parents of an autistic teenager told police that students at the high school in Bay Village, Ohio had dumped a bucket full of urine, feces, spit and cigarette butts on their son under the premise that he would have ice water dumped on his head for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

On September 6th, comedian Drew Carey posted a tweet about the incident, calling it "horrendous" and demanding that the kids responsible be brought to justice.[14] Minutes later, he posted a follow-up tweet offering $10,000 to help find the culprits.[15] In the coming days, celebrities Jenny McCarthy and Montel Williams tweeted that they would also donate to help finding those responsible.[16]

* Drew Carey @DrewFromTV Follow W--? Just saw this. Horrendous. These kids should be arrested and expelled. (Via @clevelanddotcom) village/in... Reply ta Retweet ★ Favorite More

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On August 20th, 2014, the ALS Association announced in a press release[13] that the group received more than $31.5 million during the period of July 29th to August 20th, in comparison to the donation of $1.9 million raised during the same time period last year.

During the summer of 2014, the ALS Association raised roughly $100 million, a huge increase from the $3 million raised during the summer of the previous year. Because the quantity of money was so large, it took the Association almost a year to properly allocate it.[17] But by 2015 the huge influx of cash was beginning to pay dividends, contributing to an important paper on ALS published in an issue of the journal Science.[19] In an AMA on Reddit, one of the paper's so-authors, Johns Hopkins University graduate student Jonathan Ling, wrote:

I remember reading a lot of stories about people complaining that the ice bucket challenge was a waste and that scientists weren’t using the money to do research, etc. I assure you that this is absolutely false. All of your donations have been amazingly helpful and we have been working tirelessly to find a cure. With the amount of money that the ice bucket challenge raised, I feel that there’s a lot of hope and optimism now for real, meaningful therapies.[18]

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