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Man Who Inspired ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Dies


The ice bucket challenge became a viral sensation a few years ago.


SIEGEL: People dumped buckets of icy water on themselves, then dared others to do the same all to raise money for and awareness of the degenerative disease known as ALS.


SIEGEL: Last week, the challenge lost one of its inspirations. Anthony Senerchia Jr. succumbed to the disease at age 46. NPR's Andrew Limbong has his story.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: On the third floor of the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., is a bucket.

AMANDA MONIZ: This is an everyday, simple blue mop bucket, just the kind that you would pick up in a hardware store.

LIMBONG: That's Amanda Moniz, curator of philanthropy at the museum. The bucket in question sits behind a glass window in between an old March of Dimes can and a bust of Andrew Carnegie. The bucket was donated by Anthony Senerchia Jr.

MONIZ: His wife, Jeanette - she used it to pour a bucket of cold water over her head.

LIMBONG: To bring attention, awareness and money to the fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Her bucket over the head set off a chain reaction - friends, family, neighbors.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Hi, everybody. We're here for the Anthony Senerchia ice bucket challenge.

LIMBONG: The challenge didn't blow up until it reached a man named Pat Quinn, who told his friend Pete Frates about it. They both have ALS. Frates was a rising baseball star, and he brought the challenge national and international attention - movie stars and Tiger sports teams, network TV. And it had an effect, says Brian Frederick, an executive vice president for the ALS Association.

BRIAN FREDERICK: The ALS Association raised a $115 million from the ice bucket challenge. And we estimate that including the ALS Association, all organizations around the world raised about $220 million.

LIMBONG: The Senerchias themselves set up their own foundation to help others with ALS. Back at the museum, curator Amanda Moniz says the mop bucket represents how anyone can give, can participate in an act of philanthropy. And when Anthony Senerchia Jr. came to donate the bucket, he prepared a statement that his brother read.

MONIZ: And what he said was that it's not what you take from life but what you give back that defines you.

LIMBONG: Andrew Limbong, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.