Anthony Senerchia of Pelham, N.Y., died Saturday after a 14-year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, most commonly referred to as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. The neurodegenerative disease causes nerve cells in the brain and spine to atrophy, ultimately leaving patients unable to speak, move, and eventually breathe.
Shortly after his diagnosis, Senerchia, who owned a construction contracting business, married his high school sweetheart, Jeanette Hane, and the two became parents of a daughter, Taya, now 9 years old. Senerchia also founded the Anthony Senerchia Jr. ALS Charitable Foundation to raise money for research.
However, according to the Journal, a lower Hudson Valley news publication, Senerchia also inadvertently popularized the Ice Bucket Challenge, when Hane’s cousin, professional golfer Chris Kennedy, poured a bucket over his own head and challenged Senerchia to do the same.
“He sent it to me as a joke and then it turned into something extraordinary,” Hane told the Journal Sunday.
Here’s how the challenge worked: A person would stand in front of a camera and dump the water over his or her head, and then nominate a list of other people to follow suit. The nominees, who were called out on social media, had 24 hours to either dump water on themselves or make a donation to ALS research.
Initially, the challenge was dismissed as “slacktivism,” a term for doing little to support a cause other than perform an online stunt for attention. However, in only eight weeks, CNN reports, 17 million people, including celebrities such as Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Oprah, and LeBron James, were pouring buckets of chilling icy water over their heads, in rain, snow, and sun.
Ultimately, the challenge was deemed a success after $1 million helped discover a gene called NEK1 that contributes to ALS.
Senerchia’s funeral will take place on Tuesday in Pelham. Making a difference and spreading joy? That’s a life well spent.
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