Buckets of generosity: Franklin County police, fire get wet for ALS
Members of the Montague Police Department dump buckets of ice water over their heads outside the public safety building on Tuesday in order to raise awareness for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. From left are Staff Sgt. Chris Williams, officer Mike Sevene, Chief Charles "Chip" Dodge, officer Josh Hoffman, Detective Sgt. Lee laster and officer Jake Lapean. Originally challenged by the Greenfield Police Department, Montague challenged the Erving, Gill and Bernardston Police Departments to join in the social media sensation. (Recorder/Micky Bedell) Purchase photo reprints »
GREENFIELD — Across Franklin County, police and firefighters are getting ice cold and soaking wet — to raise awareness and money for ALS, a disorder that affects the function of nerves and muscles.
The local public safety officers are participating in the “Ice Bucket Challenge” a social media phenomenon that started in Beverly and quickly took off throughout the country.
This week, the Greenfield police and fire departments, Montague police and Turners Falls Fire Department and Deerfield, Erving Gill, Bernardston and Orange police have been challenged by community members or each other to dump a bucket of ice water on their heads or donate $100 to ALS.org. Participants have 24 hours to complete the task and are required to challenge others to participate as well and post a video of it to social media.
Some organizations volunteer to do both, dump a bucket of ice water and donate money through police union associations.
In the two-week period from July 29 to Aug. 12, the Massachusetts chapter in Norwood has received $316,000 in online donations — a huge increase from $23,100 in the same period last year. The national organization has received $2.3 million in the same two-week span — an almost tenfold increase from the previous year.
The ice bucket challenge is a social media campaign started by Peter Frates of Beverly.
Frates is a former Division 1 college athlete and captain of Boston College baseball who was recently diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, according to the Massachusetts chapter of ALS Association.
The ice bucket challenge originally began as a local Beverly event to raise money and awareness for ALS, but through social media it has quickly spread and grown across the state and country with politicians, athletes and celebrities taking on the challenge.
Donations to the state and national ALS associations have increased tremendously since social media made the campaign viral two weeks ago.
“It’s incredible,” said Lynn Aaronson, the executive director of the ALS Association Massachusetts Chapter. “It’s a true social media viral phenomenon. We’re a smaller disease group so we don’t get exposure other diseases get. We’re absolutely thrilled.”
ALS is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects the function of nerve cells in the brain and muscle cells in the spinal cord and can lead to paralysis. According to the ALS Association, it is estimated that as many as 30,000 Americans have the disease at any given time. Each year about 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with the disease that has no known cure. Most people develop the disease between the ages of 40 and 70.
There are 500 patients diagnosed with the disease in Massachusetts.
A sister of a probationary Greenfield firefighter Bill Kimball locally sparked the trend that now has local police and fire officials soaking themselves with buckets of cold water.
Courtney Kimball of Greenfield challenged the Greenfield Fire Department’s first shift of firefighters, also known as Group 1, after her aunt tapped her for the challenge.
The Greenfield firefighters subsequently challenged the Northampton Fire Department, Greenfield police and shifts 2 and 4 of the Greenfield fire station.
“We love the idea,” said Greenfield firefighter Luke Dejnak. “We do a lot of these challenges. We enjoy participating in them.”
After dumping buckets of ice water— donated by Home Depot and Summit Ice — on their heads on Monday, five members of the Greenfield police challenged members of the Deerfield, Montague and Orange police departments as well.
“We’re very honored to participate in this challenge and help spread the word about the seriousness of a disease like ALS,” said Montague Police Chief Chip Dodge as he stood dripping wet on Tuesday afternoon after six members his department completed the challenge.
Aubuchon Hardware donated the buckets and the Franklin County Boat Club provided the ice for Montague.
“Originally, when Greenfield Police challenged us, I wasn’t sure I was too happy,” Dodge laughed. “But after thinking about the importance of spreading the word, the department came together as a team to spread the message.”
Massachusetts State Police Colonel Timothy P. Alben and his command staff also got involved, taking the challenge on Tuesday and passing it on to the other New England State Police colonels and Louisiana State Police colonels to do the same with their staffs.
Deerfield Police are determining a date to complete the challenge. Chief John Paciorek Jr. is on vacation and no full-time officers were working during the day on Tuesday.
Orange police, which does not have a social media account, was not aware of the challenge when a reporter asked and didn’t know whether they would complete it.
Montague Police challenged the neighboring police departments in Gill, Erving and Bernardston. They now have 24 hours.
For more information on ALS or to donate to the ALS Association Massachusetts Chapter, visit:
To see videos of the Montague and Greenfield Police department participants, see:
Greenfield Police Department: http://fb.me/6DWI2BLre
Montague Police Department: http://fb.me/6GTgXvZuS