Putting a Catholic twist on the ALS ice bucket challenge

OLPH School in Chattanooga raises hundreds of dollars for research by getting students, faculty into the spirit                    

By Katie West

TAKING THE CHALLENGE Father Jim Vick, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, left, and Sam Martin, principal of OLPH School, are showered with attention by OLPH School students during the ALS ice bucket challenge. Photo by Katie West

TAKING THE CHALLENGE Father Jim Vick, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, left, and Sam Martin, principal of OLPH School, are showered with attention by OLPH School students during the ALS ice bucket challenge. Photo by Katie West

A sixth-grade student, a new principal and a generous parish recently found a way to put a Catholic twist on the ALS ice bucket challenge.

It all started when Kassidy Barta, a student at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Chattanooga, nominated her principal, Sam Martin, for the ALS challenge at the height of the social media craze that raises money for the ALS Association.

“I did it because I thought it would be funny,” Barta said.

But Martin, only weeks into his new role at the diocesan pre-kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school, took the challenge in another direction when he accepted.

Seeking to fund the John Paul II Medical Research Institute, which advances medical research for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cancer and other rare diseases without the use of embryonic stem cells, Mr. Martin told the students that any of them could douse him with a bucket of ice water in exchange for a $20 donation. In just over two weeks, the school had collected more than $700.

“We want to fight ALS, but … in a way that does not include embryonic stem cell research,” Mr. Martin said. “We want to make a meaningful and conscientious donation.”

But when the designated day arrived, things got even more interesting.

On a Thursday morning, Father Jim Vick, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, mentioned Mr. Martin’s challenge in his 8:15 a.m. Mass homily. Father Vick wished the principal luck, but added that if students, parents and other parishioners could double what had been raised up to that point, he was willing to join in the chilly fun.

The news spread quickly among parents, and soon the school office was flooded with calls, e-mails and parents walking in with $20 bills in hand. Just before noon, the school office sent a text message to Father Vick to tell him he had better be on the school playground by 2 p.m. with towel in hand because his challenge had been met.

The chairs were set up on the playground, coolers of ice and buckets were lined up, and the students headed outside with their “I Bought a Bucket” tickets in hand. The totals came in at $1,500 in donations and around 75 buckets of ice water — to the delight of the student body.

The students, faculty and staff participated in the event, learning about putting feet on their prayers for those who are suffering.

“I cannot hear out of my right ear,” Mr. Martin said afterward with a huge grin on his face.

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