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BUCKET LIST: Locals take ALS challenge

by on August 22, 2014 10:58 AM

READ MORE: Indiana County officials get doused

By now, chances are you know someone who has taken the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

The social media phenomenon has gone viral since midsummer. If you’re on Facebook, you’ve seen videos of family and friends taking the challenge dominate your news feed.

Countless high school and professional sports teams have done it as a group. IUP’s head football coach, Curt Cignetti — who otherwise prohibits the celebratory soaking with a water cooler on the sidelines — posted a video earlier this week on Facebook of him getting drenched by some of his players.

You can find videos of celebrities and athletes doing the challenge, including Lady Gaga, Tom Cruise, Justin Bieber, “Weird” Al Yankovic, Stephen King, Simon Cowell, David Beckham, Bill Gates, Mike Tyson, Britney Spears, Mickey Rourke and Oprah Winfrey. Charlie Sheen dumped $10,000 on his head, saying he is going to donate it. “Good Morning America” host Matt Lauer was among the first celebs to take part, in mid-July. And don’t forget Kermit the Frog.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett got wet last week. Even former President George W. Bush appeared on a Facebook post in which wife Laura Bush happily doused him. President Obama has pledged to donate.

Some local politicians have used it to outdo each other: Rep. Jeff Pyle one-upped a fellow state representative from York County last week by having a front-end loader full of water dumped on him.

The Rev. Dave Henderson, pastor at Grace United Methodist Church, accepted the challenge on the steps of the church earlier this week.

Local businesses leaders have joined in — the CEOs of Indiana-based First Commonwealth Bank and S&T Bank likely ruined their suits in the process this week.

For Deb Zbur, branch manager at the Willow Springs office of Marion Center Bank, the fight against ALS is personal. Her sister, Indiana County native Pat Lee, died from the disease in November 2011.

“It was three years from diagnosis to death,” Zbur said. “It’s a horrible, terrible disease. Most people don’t even know what ALS is. That’s why it’s so great that people are doing this. And it’s so easy; all you need is a bucket and some ice water.”

Zbur has taken the challenge herself and has in turn challenged the bank’s employees to join her. The bank’s CEO made good on his promise Thursday.

A multitude of local businesses have challenged other businesses to take part.

The challenge is to dump a bucket of ice-cold water on your head within 24 hours of being nominated by someone, or make a donation (typically $100) to the ALS Association, which raises money for the fight against the disease. The proof is a video, usually posted to Facebook.

ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a fatal, incurable condition in which cells in the brain and spinal cord slowly die, making it increasingly difficult to function. Ultimately, the victim cannot walk, talk or eat or breathe without medical assistance.

The affliction is rare: Only 1 or 2 people out of 100,000 are diagnosed with ALS.

The origins of the challenge are unclear, but it appears to be a spinoff of the “cold water challenge” to benefit cancer research, started earlier this summer. And many people credit teammates of Pete Frates, 29, a former Boston College baseball player who was diagnosed in 2012. They challenged people to dump water or donate, prompting many athletes and celebrities followed suit.

Dumping water on your head to get out of making a donation (though some people do both) may not seem helpful for the ALS. However, the ALS Association on Thursday reported donations of $41.8 million just since July 29, about the time the challenge took off. That compares to $2.1 donated over the same period last year. Contributions in the last few weeks have come from more than 740,000 new donors, the agency said.

To donate, log on to the ALS Association’s website at

PHOTO: Deputy Sheriff Nick Stone, left, Sheriff Robert Fyock, center, and Sgt. Chris
Cusimano obliged county commissioners Mike Baker, left, Rod Ruddock and Patty Evanko with the challenge Thursday outside the courthouse. (Tom Peel/Gazette photo)

Have you taken the challenge? Share the link to your video on

News editor Jason Levan has been with the Gazette for more than 15 years. He oversees the newspaper’s reporting and photography staff, coordinating much of the local content, as well as planning for various special projects. He is also very involved in the layout and design of the newspaper. He can be reached at or (724) 465-5555, ext. 270.
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