Anthony Senerchia, Who Inspired ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Dies at 46

Anthony Senerchia, Who Inspired ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Dies at 46

Anthony Senerchia Jr., the 46-year-old man who served as the inspiration for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, died on Nov. 25. He lived with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) for 14 years.

Senerchia was diagnosed with ALS shorty after marrying his high school sweetheart, Jeanette Hane, in 2003. In 2008 the couple had a daughter, Taya, who his wife says kept Anthony strong to fight the disease. ALS, however, eventually took its toll, and Anthony’s life.

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Jeanette and Anthony Senerchia with their daughter, Taya. (Photo by Deborah Karson)

“It’s a difficult disease and tough when you’re losing,” Jeanette Senerchia said in a news story. “Your body is failing you. But he was a fighter… He was our light. He made our life better.”

One of the most significant facts about Senerchia’s life is that he was the inspiration behind one of the first ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos, in 2014.

That year, Jeanette Senerchia’s cousin, professional golfer Chris Kennedy, challenged her to take part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by tipping a bucket of ice water over her head. Kennedy was among the first to pour the cold bucket of water over his head to experience the muscle stiffness that is commonly associated with ALS, in a gesture of solidarity.

“He sent it to me as a joke and then it turned into something extraordinary,” Jeanette said.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge quickly became an international sensation and went viral on social media, inspiring an estimated 17 million online videos.

More than 440 million people watched these videos, with donations from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge eventually reaching $200 million for ALS research and advocacy organizations.

Senerchia lived to see the celebration of the third anniversary of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, in August 2017. The ALS Association honored the campaign with a re-edition of the challenge, called Every Drop Adds Up, to support the ALS community.

The new campaign invited participants to share photos and stories of those fighting ALS to shed light on the complex factors and impact of the disease on patients, their friends and family.

Senerchia also witnessed the transformation of an online challenge into a museum attraction when, in December 2016, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History inaugurated its long-term exhibition called “Giving in America,” which displays the history of philanthropy’s role in shaping the U.S.

The museum’s collection includes contemporary examples like the bucket Chris Kennedy used when he challenged Jeanette for the first video of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Anthony Senerchia played football at Pelham Memorial High School and graduated from Manhattan College with a degree in civil engineering. He was a project manager for a New York City construction firm until he started his own contracting business, SCC Construction.

In Pelham, he left a prestigious legacy. After helping create a youth football league, the high school founded an award in Anthony’s name. He also created the Anthony Senerchia Jr. ALS Charitable Foundation, to help others who are battling ALS.

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