VIDEO Not-so-buttoned-down politicians get all wet as they take the Ice Bucket Challenge in Northampton

Last modified: Sunday, August 17, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan cried out “WOO!” as City Council President William Dwight dumped a bucket of ice water on his head Friday afternoon.

“It was colder (than I expected), but it was a good cold, and we’re all having a lot of fun,” Sullivan said afterward in his soaked polo shirt.

A half-dozen, well-known Valley figures got soaked on the steps of City Hall when they accepted the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money for research about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS is a disease characterized by the degeneration of the nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Its cause is not fully understood and there is no known cure.

The Ice Bucket Challenge has taken the Internet by storm since it was started last month by Peter Frates, a Beverly native who is the former captain of the Boston College baseball team, and Patrick Quinn, of Yonkers, New York, both of whom have been diagnosed with ALS.

Those challenged must either donate at least $100 to an ALS charity or dump a bucket of ice water on their heads within 24 hours, then challenge at least three more people. Some have chosen to use the challenge to encourage donations to other charities.

Friday’s gathering came about after Dwight was challenged last week by his friend Rachel Maddow of The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC to donate $250 to the Andi Leadership Foundation. Maddow dumped a bucket of ice water on Dwight’s head while they were both on vacation in Wellfleet on Cape Cod — and agreed to donate $50 in his name.

Dwight challenged Democratic candidate for governor Donald Berwick, U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester, and the Northampton Youth Commission as a whole to donate $250 to Whole Children in Hadley. If they dumped the water on their heads, Dwight promised to donate $50 in each of their names.

The news spread, and soon a handful of public figures planned to meet at 3 p.m. Friday on the steps of City Hall.

Dressed in a yellow raincoat, Dwight filled several buckets of ice water as he prepared to soak those in attendance. McGovern, dressed in a tropical shirt, was first up. McGovern removed his glasses, and kept his hands folded as the crowd counted to three.

Though his mouth fell open as the ice-cold water poured over him, he quickly regained his composure. “Thank you Bill, I really appreciate that,” he said to Dwight as he shook the water off his hands.

Everyone who got soaked was quickly handed a towel by either Danny or Shane Bussard, ages 6 and 7, respectively, the sons of McGovern’s district communicator Natalie Blais.

McGovern said that when Dwight challenged him, he had to say yes. McGovern also donated $100 to the ALS Foundation.

“This is an incredible effort for good causes,” he said. “This has been contagious all across the country.”

He lightheartedly recalled how when his wife, Lisa, took the challenge a few days before, their video had no sound — so she had to have the ice water dumped on her twice.

McGovern then dumped ice water on Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura, who was shivering in anticipation as McGovern held the pail over him.

Other local figures who got wet Friday afternoon were state Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington; Russell Peotter, general manager for WGBY in Springfield; William O’Riordan, former Hampshire chief probation officer; Monte Belmonte and Joan Holliday, hosts for WRSI 93.9 The River; and WHMP broadcaster Bob Flaherty. Shane Bussard also took a break from making towel runs to get soaked himself.

Flaherty said that though the water was not as cold as he expected, he still had trouble maintaining a calm expression. “Once it went down my back, I started getting the willies,” he said.

With hardly a dry spot on the steps of City Hall and his front soaked from the backsplash of dumping the water, Dwight said that the gathering had three purposes: increasing awareness of important causes, raising money for charity, and giving people the opportunity to see local politicians when they are not so buttoned-down.

“We all look just as human when we’re soaking wet,” he said.

Gena Mangiaratti can be reached at gmangiaratti@gazettenet.com.