We’ve all seen the videos of celebrities, your neighbors and friends — possibly your own mother — getting doused with a bucket of freezing cold water, all for a good cause.

The Ice Bucket Challenge, and the millions it has helped raise for Lou Gehrig’s Disease, otherwise known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), has gone viral, though some may not realize the origins of the fund-raiser has a close connection to a Trumbull family.

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.

Recently, many residents and groups, from Trumbull High’s football team to the staff at Booth Hill School, have dumped ice water on their heads. Those in the community may not, however, realize that a Trumbull resident was actually the first in Connecticut to do so last month, and the fourth in the country, according to resident Martin Lalli.

“Our wonderful community of Trumbull is not only largely responsible for the viral spread of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge but has very close family ties to creation of it,” Lalli told The Times.

According to the Lalli family, the challenge started on July 16 by Jeanette Senerchia of Pelham, N.Y. Senerchia is the sister of Trumbullite Genia Lalli, Martin’s wife. Chris Kennedy, a cousin of Senerchia and Lalli, challenged Senerchia via Facebook to perform the challenge. Kennedy is a pro golfer and the ice bucket challenge was something pro golfers were doing for fun in Florida.

“At this time, the little known ice bucket challenge did not have any connection to ALS,” Martin Lalli said. “You just had to do the challenge or else contribute to a charity of your choice.”

Senerchia’s husband, Anthony, has been suffering from ALS for 11 years and the family had recently started The Anthony Senerchia Jr. ALS Charitable Foundation. Kennedy, in his challenge, said if his cousin didn’t dump the ice, she would have to donate.

“Chris called Jeanette out on Facebook,” Martin Lalli said of Senerchia. “When she did it the next day she called it the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and it just went crazy from there.”

Interestingly, Senerchia almost chickened out and didn’t dump the ice, almost opting to simply to make the donation. However, when Senerchia completed her challenge, filmed by her six year-old daughter, she challenged others to do the same, and if they failed to, they had to donate $100 to the cause.

They very next day, July 17, the ice bucket challenge came to Trumbull, when Genia Lalli was challenged by a relative.

“This was the first ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in the state of Connecticut and the fourth ALS ice bucket challenge overall,” Martin Lalli said.

Impact

Since that first video, many participants have opted to both donate and take the challenge.

“It all happened so fast,” Lalli said of the social media explosion. “When it started we didn’t even have the website up for the foundation.”

Now, the foundation the family started has a website up and running at ASJfoundation.org. Lalli said he is grateful for all the generous support friends in Trumbull and beyond have provided.

As of Monday, the challenge has helped the ALS Association raise more than $79 million, compared to $2.5 million during the same time last year. With anything as popular as the ice bucket challenge, there has been some backlash or negativity of people doubting its effectiveness for raising money, but Lalli and his family strongly disagree with that opinion.

“You can’t really argue with the results,” he said. “Every day its someone else doing the challenge and more money donated. We’re really happy about the awareness as well.”

On Aug. 21, the Senerchias and Lallis participated in the ringing of the opening bell of the NASDAQ in New York City. The Senerchias were invited by the ALS Association of New York to thank them for this amazing contribution to ALS. Martin Lalli and his daughters went with the Senerchia family for the special day.

The family has been amazed by all the attention, and Lalli says his sister-in-law has been interviewed by countless media outlets, including a Japanese television station. The challenge has become very popular in Japan.

“It is our hope all the funding now made available to the ALS association will lead to a cure,” Lalli said. “It’s definitely something Trumbull should be proud of.”

To learn more about the disease visit ALSA.org, and to learn more about The Anthony Senerchia Jr. ALS Charitable Foundation, visit ASJfoundation.org.