BENTON -- The inaugural ice bucket challenge held on Saturday afternoon at the Benton American Legion and VFW caused quite a splash.
"We were told that the first-time events are lucky to raise a few hundred dollars," said Gary Fravel, commander of the VFW Post 2671.
Saturday's event surpassed that by a few thousand dollars. The money funds research and raises awareness of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as "Lou Gehrig's disease."
"As of now, our total raised is $3,006," said American Legion Post 280 Commander John Metzger, late Saturday night.
Community members and leaders turned out to be drenched by a "bucket" of ice water, each providing a $50 donation.
"When you said bucket, I thought a small bucket," laughed State Sen. Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg), who accepted the challenge from the Benton News. "I didn't know it was going to be a tractor full!"
Fowler stood in the first group alongside Benton Cubmaster Shannon Carr, her son, Nate Sloan, and Pamela Bennett, representing Cub Scout Pack 28 and Franklin-Williamson Bi-County Home Health.
Sloan had an anonymous sponsor. The Sons of the American Legion sponsored Carr, while Bennett was sponsored by state Rep. Dave Severin (R-Benton), who could not participate due to an arm injury requiring surgery.
"I can't get this wet," he said, pointing to his arm wrapped and in a sling.
Fowler found a way for his fellow legislator to take part, though.
"I'll give an extra $50 if Dave Severin dunks his head, his whole head, in the bucket," he told the crowd.
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
"Events like this not only raise funds for research and providing services to those affected and their family, they also build awareness of the disease," said Andrea Flanigan, development coordinator the St. Louis Chapter of the ALS Association.
"The more awareness we can generate the better we are able to raise money to develop treatments and hopefully a cure so no one will be affected by this in the future."
Fravel said the two Benton veterans' organizations became involved when the disease became personal last year.
Donna Mabry died just eight months after being diagnosed in December of 2016.
"She was only 70," said her daughter, Roxanne Price. Price and her family spent the day serving up pork loin sandwiches to help with the fundraising effort.
Fravel told the Benton News last month that involving the veterans' organizations in ALS fundraising was important because research shows that ALS affects veterans at a much higher rate than the general population.
Severin said that the event was not only about the fundraising effort, but "it brings the community together," he said.
"This was a community effort," Fravel said. "We had people from Marion, Benton, Harrisburg, West Frankfort, and Du Quoin."
Fravel added that teaming up the VFW and American Legion "shows people that as veterans organizations we stand together to help vets and our communities."
Fravel hopes to make the ice bucket challenge an annual event.
"We want to bring in more Legions and Posts and possibly make it a traveling event," he said.