Paynter students take the ice-bucket challenge

| Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

A challenge from one of their peers to douse themselves with a bucket of blistering-cold ice water to raise money for a worthy caused united 250 students on the front lawn of Paynter Elementary School over the weekend.

While scrolling through photos on Instagram, Paynter Elementary fifth-grader Emiley Hillgartner saw the videos of friends, family and celebrities taking the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which aims to raise awareness and funds to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurodegenerative condition more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.

“Almost every one was a picture or video of someone doing the challenge,” Emiley said.

That gave her an idea: Why not challenge her entire school?

She did, and 250 students and teachers from across the Baldwin-Whitehall School District accepted on Saturday morning. They poured buckets of ice water on their heads in unison and raised $1,225 for the ALS Association.

“There's a lot of people here,” said Emiley, who was surprised by the turnout.

Members of Baldwin Borough police, Baldwin Emergency Medical Services and Baldwin Independent Fire Company No. 1 assisted with the challenge.

The ALS Ice Bucket challenge is to pour a bucket filled with ice water on your head, post a video of it on social media and challenge others to do the same within 24 hours or donate $100 to the ALS Association. Pete Frates, of Beverly, Mass., who has lived with ALS since 2012, helped make the challenge go viral, according to the organization. In some versions of the challenge, those dousing themselves with water also make a donation.

The challenge, as of Tuesday, had raised $88.5 million for the ALS Association.

Approximately 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year, according to the ALS Association.

“It's just kind of taken off, thanks to social media,” said Marie Folino, patient services director for the ALS Association's Western Pennsylvania Chapter.

The challenge at Paynter brought the community together, Paynter Principal Tricia Fusco said.

“It's unbelievable,” Fusco said. “It spread like wildfire.”

Students who already graduated from Paynter Elementary and are attending Harrison Middle School returned for the challenge. Others came from different elementary schools or with their parents who teach in the district.

“This was a really special day ... I'm doing it with Mommy,” said Alexis Buglar, 5, a kindergartner at Jefferson Elementary in the West Jefferson Hills School District, whose mother, Tiffany, is a fourth-grade teacher at Paynter.

Grace Spozarski, 9, a fourth-grader at Paynter said the ice bucket challenge was refreshing.

“I didn't want to do it at first,” Grace said. “I thought it was going to be really cold.”

Timothy Book, 9, also a fourth-grader, said he participated in the challenge “for fun and to help people.”

“It's very cold at first, but once it's done and the water is on you, it's warm and fine,” Timothy said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or

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