Ice bucket challenge makes big splash at Fox Chapel Presbyterian

Tawnya Panizzi
| Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Before a drop of frigid water rained downed on the Rev. Lee Nichols, he knew his ALS Ice Bucket Challenge had made a splash.

A crowd of hundreds gathered on Sunday in the lawn at Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church to watch Nichols and his fellow pastors, Cathie Smith and Chris Taylor, get trounced with icy water.

“The whole idea of it was not to draw attention to us but to focus on ALS and with that crowd, I can't imagine that we didn't raise awareness that morning,” Nichols said.

The phenomenon of the Ice Bucket Challenge has skyrocketed in the last month, with more than $70 million raised to fight Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. More than 30,000 people in the United States suffer from the illness, which strikes the nervous system and leads to paralysis. The Ice Bucket Challenge dares nominated participants to pour pails of ice cold water over their heads while challenging others to do it within 24 hours or donate to ALS research.

For Smith, accepting the challenge was a way to honor parishioners Neil Alexander, an O'Hara resident who was diagnosed with ALS in 2011, and the late Susan Galloway.

“It is with great respect and honor, and a good laugh at our own expense, that we accepted this challenge,” she said.

Alexander, with his family, founded the LiveLikeLou organization that supports research, provides care and raises awareness for the disease. Upcoming events include a 52-mile roundtrip bike ride from the Homestead Pump House to West Newton on Oct. 4.

The following day, Oct. 5, a Donut Dash organized by the Carnegie Mellon University chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon will be held. Participants will run one mile before grubbing down at least six donuts and then running a second mile. There also is a casual category for the non-carb-lovers. To learn more about either event, visit

Alexander on Sunday cheered with his family from the crowd along Fox Chapel Road.

“There is evidence that gratitude can have measurable benefits,” Alexander said. “When you make a conscious effort to appreciate all that you have, big and small, and acknowledge help you received along the way, you become more likely to help others who may not be as fortunate as you.

“My family has been so touched by the outpouring of support.”

Nichols said the inspiration of the challenge was contagious and that was the true aim of the event, even if he had to take a bucket of cold water to get it started.

“It was incredibly cold,” Nichols said with a laugh, “but it only lasted about five seconds.”

The idea was to honor friends and get people talking, Nichols said.

“I think it was a great success,” he said. “It was a lot of fun, a great event for our church and got people thinking.”

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or

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