NVS Team Takes The Ice Bucket Challenge To Support One Of Their Own & ALS Association

It may have been warm when the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge began gaining steam earlier this month, but the owners and employees of Newtown Veterinary Specialists (NVS) ended up taking the challenge on one of the summer’s cooler days. Nevertheless, nearly two dozen people stood on the side lawn of the Church Hill Road 24-hour veterinary emergency and specialty hospital Friday afternoon and poured buckets of ice water over themselves.

One of this summer’s big fads, the Ice Bucket Challenge involves people getting doused with buckets of ice water, capturing this on video, and posting that video to social media with a nomination — or, the challenge — for someone else to do the same. Those who accept the dare can consider themselves part of a growing group of people of all ages, many of whom have used Facebook to continue the trend, to solicit donations for The ALS Association.

Many have promised a donation to ALS in response to each Like on a Facebook post featuring a photo or video of them completing the challenge.

Those who opt to not accept the challenge can also participate in the fundraising effort by making a straight donation to The ALS Association.

ALS Association is crediting Pete Frates of Beverly, Mass., and his family, for making the challenge go viral through their posts on Facebook and Twitter. Mr Frates, 29, has been living with ALS since 2012, and has worked with ALS’s Massachusetts chapter.

“A former Division 1 college athlete with Boston College, Frates tirelessly spreads awareness of Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” ALS Association said via an August 6 press release.

The mission of ALS Association is to lead the fight to treat and cure Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, through global research and national advocacy “while also empowering people with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and their families to live fuller lives by providing them with compassionate care and support.”

The Ice Bucket Challenge has led to what the association is calling “unprecedented” generosity. Ice Bucket Challenge donations alone reached the $10 million mark by August 10, representing 220,255 new donors to the association. The number had nearly tripled ten days later, with ALS Association reported $31.5 million in donations. Countless actors, musicians, politicians and other famous in the celebrity limelight have used their status to take and continue issuing challenges in recent weeks.

As of August 22, ALS was reporting on its website that the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised at least $53.3 million.

(For those concerned with water usage, as well as those who are in an area affected by drought, ALS is encouraging that people “repurpose the water for later use of help spread ALS awareness” by becoming involved with the association as an advocate, volunteer, special event participant and/or to make a donation instead of accepting the challenge.)


Buckets Of Ice Water At NVS

By early Friday afternoon, the NVS crew assembled on the north lawn at 52 Church Hill Road. It was an overcast and cool day, a point observed by a few of those who were trying to psyche themselves up to douse themselves with ice water.

Scott Schifilliti, president and CEO of NVS, even looked for a spare volunteer.

“I want someone who isn’t taking the challenge to be ready to dump a bucket of water on anyone who looks like they’re hesitating,” he called out over the low hum of conversations and laughter taking place among his employees. Occasional car horns were heard as drivers passed the animal care center, which added to the light humor of the impending event.

NVS Director of Hospital Operations Bernadette Vinci, MS, was the motivation behind the business deciding to do the ice water dump without waiting to be asked to do so by someone else.

“My dad died of ALS, so the association is near and dear to my heart,” Ms Vinci said while she and others scurried to get a hose turned on and buckets filled. A World War II (and Pearl Harbor) survivor, Ms Vinci’s father succombed to the debilitating disease in 2002.

“We’re going to do this challenge, and also make a donation to the association,” she said.

“I was very proud,” Ms Vinci said of the decision by NVS staff to do the challenge, “because ALS is such an underfunded disease. I was excited that my co-workers were participating and doing this in memory of my father, and of course all of the other ALS patients.

“It’s a good feeling,” she added.

Debra L. Weisman, DVM, MS, chief medical officer at NVS, described Ms Vinci as “a huge advocate.

“She has been that way for a long time,” said Dr Weisman. “When we heard about this, we decided to also show our support to ALS.”

As Dr Weisman spoke, others formed a semicircle on the lawn. An array of containers was used for the dousing, from standard black, gray and tan office trash bins and cleaning buckets to blue and pink sand buckets.

A set of large cardboard letters — an N, a V and an S, each a different color and coated in glitter — were laid down on the lawn, followed in short order by additional signs that said Cares About ALS!

With Mr Schifilliti running a cell phone video camera (“I’m pouring water in me,” he said with a laugh, putting down a bottle of water), Dr Weisman looked toward the camera and explained that she and those around her were supporting Ms Vinci and her ongoing support of ALS.

Moments later, she and the 18 others on the lawn lifted their buckets and dumped ice water over their heads.

The NVS team will not know until after the weekend how large their ALS Association donation will be. NVS as a company will be making a donation, said Ms Vinci, and employees have a few days to add to the pool.

“We’ll mail a check out on Monday,” she said.

To conclude the challenge, Dr Weisman looked toward Mr Schifilliti, who was still capturing feed for the video, and said she and NVS nominate The Veterinary Cancer Center in Norwalk to do the Ice Bucket Challenge.

“We are very close, we know a lot of the doctors there and work with some of them regularly,” Ms Vinci said of the decision to throw the gauntlet down toward the lower Fairfield County colleagues. “We thought it would be a good hospital to take the Challenge.

“We have a good relationship with them, and thought they needed to get wet.”

Have you taken the Ice Bucket Challenge? ALS is encouraging anyone who has taken and/or thrown down the challenge to others to use the hash tag #IceBucketChallenge to continue spreading the word.

The Newtown Bee would also love to see photos or video of our readers who have also responded to this challenge. Share photos or video on the corresponding link for this story on our Facebook page, or send email to shannon@thebee.com.

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