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Doug Clark: ALS Ice Bucket Challenge a worthy fad

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge caught up with me at high noon Friday next to the big red wagon in Riverfront Park.

I took a seat on one of the toy building block sculptures while state Sen. Mike Baumgartner, the guy who challenged me, prepared to douse me with a large orange bucket filled with ice and water he just scooped out of the nearby Spoganges River.

River water?

Baumgartner never said anything about yucky river water.

“You didn’t expect me to walk through downtown carrying a bucket full of water, did you?” he replied.

Guess not. On the other hand, I didn’t think that plucking duck feathers out of my teeth would be part of the challenge, either.

From his perch above and behind me, the senator announced that what he was about to do was “on behalf of the elected officials of Spokane.”

I didn’t buy that for a second. Trust me. I’d be taking what a friend calls the Kick the Bucket Challenge if local politicians actually had a say.

Finally, Baumgartner asked if I were ready.

I said yes.

And …

We are living in the most manic of times.

Americans have given up on doing anything in moderation anymore. Instead, we go into a compulsive all-out frenzy over whatever fad catches fire.

Food trucks, say.

There was a time long ago when you could gaze out into the horizon and see not a food truck in sight.

Then the fever struck. Now, just about every other parking spot in downtown Spokane is hawking peanut butter corn dogs or pad Thai a la mode.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is our latest manic movement.

Six months ago, you’d file a restraining order against anyone who threatened to dump a bucket of ice water over your dome.

These days, everyone from ex-presidents to movie stars to high school marching band members are joyfully risking brain freeze and posting the video proof on Facebook or YouTube.

What makes this Ice Bucket Challenge so diabolically infectious is that it is all for a righteous cause.

Famously dubbed Lou Gehrig’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive, muscle-destroying horror show.

Eventually fatal, ALS tragically causes victims to waste away, ultimately becoming unable to move or swallow, speak or breathe.

Any effort to fight this nightmare is worthwhile, even if it equates to submitting to ice cubes and a Viking shower.

According to the rules (which are often reinterpreted), someone who is challenged can pony up a $100 donation to decline.

Or they can take the bucket, pay a lesser amount and dare a few others to do the same.

Mostly, though, the dunkees pay the full 100 bucks or more.

And why not? The money goes to the ALS Association or to individuals battling this dread disease.

As of Saturday, the Ice Bucket Challenge had raised $62.5 million for the ALS organization since late July compared to $2.4 million during the same time period last year.

For the record, I gave $100 to Spokane’s Steve Gleason, a former NFL player who was diagnosed with ALS in 2011.

Plus, I am calling out three worthy candidates for the bucket brigade:

Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney Steve Tucker, Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart, and Spokane hospitality executive and former tourism chief Harry Sladich.

Go to it, boys!


“Mother of Gawd,” I yelled, jumping up.

“Leonardo DiCaprio died in water that wasn’t this cold.”

Maybe it was due to the river water, but this soaking was way more arctic than I expected.

Plus it seemed to have this, um, funky smell.

Maybe that notion was put inside my head by Joe Brasch, who documented the dunking on his iPhone. He told me that the river water would give me a fungus shaped like the Clocktower.

Thanks a lot, pal.

Watch Brasch’s video at

But it was over quickly.

I pulled on a Yankees sweatshirt in honor of Gehrig. Then I went home for a hot shower and to check for leeches.

It could have been worse, of course. Baumgartner, after all, spent time in Iraq.

I’m lucky he didn’t try to waterboard me.

Baumgartner laughed. “I did think about holding you upside down,” he joked.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at

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