A man diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease who helped make the ‘ice bucket challenge’ a viral sensation has died, it was announced on Wednesday.
Anthony Senerchia, 46, of Pelham, New York, died on Saturday – 14 years after he was initially diagnosed with the condition whose medical name is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Senerchia was diagnosed with ALS not long after marrying his high school sweetheart, Jeanette Hane, in 2003, according to The Journal News.
Jeanette said that even as the health of his mind and body were deteriorating over the years, her husband found inspiration in their nine-year-old daughter, Taya.
‘It’s a difficult disease and tough when you’re losing,’ Jeanette Senerchia said.
‘Your body is failing you. But he was a fighter… He was our light. He made our life better.’
Anthony Senerchia Jr (left), 46, of Pelham, New York, died on Saturday – 14 years after he was initially diagnosed with the condition whose medical name is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He is seen above with his wife, Jeanette, and their daughter, Taya
Senerchia excelled in football at Pelham Memorial High School. He would go on to attend Manhattan College, where he earned a degree in civil engineering.
After college, he was hired to work as a project manager for a construction firm in New York City.
Senerchia then decided to strike out on his own and start a contracting business – SCC Construction.
He was so beloved in his hometown that his high school named a special athletic award for character and leadership in his honor.
After his diagnosis, Senerchia started the Anthony Senerchia Jr ALS Charitable Foundation, which funds ALS research and helps families whose loved ones are afflicted with the condition.
‘He worked tirelessly to raise awareness for ALS and was directly responsible for the world-renowned Ice bucket challenge,’ his obituary read.
Senerchia’s wife is thought to be one of the first to take on the ice bucket challenge and link it to ALS. Her post went viral on social media and eventually reached Pete Frates, a Boston native with a massive following
Frates (seen above with his wife Julie Frates) shared the ice bucket challenge on his Facebook page – and it quickly turned into a viral sensation
The ice bucket challenge started in 2014, when Jeanette Senerchia’s cousin, Chris Kennedy, was nominated by a friend to participate by dousing himself with a bucket filled with ice cold water.
The challenge at the time had nothing to do with ALS. Instead, anyone nominated to participate would choose any charity they wanted.
The person who nominated Kennedy, a professional golfer from Sarasota, Florida, chose a local charity which benefits children with cancer.
Kennedy, remembering that he had a relative with ALS, chose ALS. Naturally, he then nominated Jeanette Senerchia.
On July 15, Jeanette Senerchia posted a video on her Facebook page in which the ice bucket challenge and ALS were linked for the first time.
‘My cousin Chris sent me a message telling me to check my Facebook,’ Jeanette Senerchia told TIME.
‘He nominated me as a joke because we bust each other’s chops. I was just going to donate money.’
During a span of two months in the summer of 2014, the ice bucket challenge helped raise over $115million toward ALS research. Professional race car champion Lewis Hamilton is seen above taking the ice bucket challenge in August 2014
Eric Singer, Paul Stanley and Tommy Thayer of the band KISS participate in the ice bucket challenge in August 2014
Jimmy Fallon, members of his band on the Tonight Show, and comedian Horatio Sanz participate in the ice bucket challenge on August 12, 2014
The next day, Jeanette Senerchia posted another video on her Facebook page – nominating others.
She used the hashtag #takingiceforantsenerchiajr and #StrikeOutALS.
Because of Senerchias’ popularity in Pelham, the community picked up on the custom and the ice bucket challenge spread quickly.
The post then reached Pat Quinn, a resident of Yonkers, New York, who was also afflicted with ALS.
Quinn and Senerchia shared mutual friends on Facebook who also got more people to do the ice bucket challenge.
Eventually, the post reached Pete Frates, a Boston resident with a huge social media following.
Frates, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2012, and Quinn shared a close relationship.
On July 31, Frates posted a video on Facebook, using the hashtags #StrikeOutALS and #Quinnforthewin – and the campaign became a viral sensation nationwide.
‘What started out as a small gesture to put a smile on Anthony’s face and bring some awareness to this terrible disease has turned into a national phenomenon and it is something we never could have dreamed of,’ Kennedy said.
During a span of two months in the summer of 2014, the ice bucket challenge helped raise over $115million toward ALS research.