Ice Bucket Challenge Splashes Into Petersburg

If you’ve spent any time on social media this summer, you’ve probably come across Youtube videos of the Ice Bucket Challenge. It’s a fundraising effort for ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Now, the viral sensation is popping up in communities around Alaska.  In Petersburg, the term “ice bucket” is taken very literally.

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Everyone from Justin Bieber to Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell has been doused with water. “I think the funniest one I saw was Martha Stewart. She went and did the ice bucket challenge before she got her hair done. I thought that was cheating a little,” says Nancy Berg. She co-owns the Viking Travel agency with her husband and, together with their employees, they will each dump a five gallon bucket of water on themselves–with some local flair, of course. “So it will be ice with some ice from the cannery. We’re not even just doing water.”

They’re doing it to raise money for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease which a neurodegenerative illness. Here’s how it works: people challenge each other to dump a bucket of ice water on themselves. “Supposedly if you don’t do the challenge, you’re supposed to donate, but I think everyone’s donating and doing it for fun.”

Most people are donating around $100 for the cause. The ALS Association has raised almost $23 million dollars this year, much of that attributed to the viral campaign. It’s significantly more than last year’s earnings of just over $1 million. Berg says she learned about the Ice Bucket Challenge while watching the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. “They got challenged by Justin Timberlake and I kept following who was doing it. Now every time I get on Facebook or somewhere on the internet I see some new celebrity.”

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski takes the plunge.

Viking Travel is challenging friends and local business in downtown Petersburg, but first they have to douse themselves. They line up on the sidewalk outside their office, buckets filled to the brim. They count down “3,2,1″ before dumping the slushy mixture of ice and water onto themselves.

Some critics of the Ice Bucket Challenge are calling it an of act of “slacktivism.” A viral sensation run amok without any long term commitment from its participants, but for the Petersburg Insurance Center, ALS affects someone the company knows. That’s why employee Katie Eddy says they’re accepting the challenge. “We have a fellow agent in Juneau and his brother passed away from the disease, so that’s why we’re doing it. Kind of in honor of his brother.”

Nancy Berg crosses the street to challenge Inga’s Gallery, a popular food truck in downtown. She approaches the window, telling the staff “you have 24 hours,” and they genially accept. The challenge has spread to other people and businesses in the community–ice buckets poised to drop.

If you want to see Viking Travel get soaked in the Ice Bucket Challenge, visit the company’s Facebook page.

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell takes the challenge.

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