An icy douse for a good cause: First responders take up a “cold water challenge”

Savannah Chastain
Okaloosa Sheriff Deputy Sonya Shepard chose to be doused with ice water from students and volunteers at Destin Elementary School for her challenge.

A new social media challenge that has been sweeping the country has now begun to pick up steam here on the Emerald Coast. It’s called the Cold Water Challenge and the rules are simple.

- Open your social media page and find a nomination, you have been challenged to douse yourself fully in ice water and then donate $20 to a charity chosen by your friend.

- You have 24 hours to complete the challenge or pay the consequence, which is to donate $100 to the chosen charity.

- If you accept the challenge, you must videotape your successful ice dunk and post it to YouTube or Facebook.

- Now you are eligible to nominate up to five more friends to take the challenge, and are able to choose the charity for your friends give to, and also give $20 to your new chosen charity.

“The whole thing was intended to be a friendly little competition between first responders in the name of raising funds for worthy charities,” said Okaloosa Sheriff Deputy Sonya Shepard. “The challenge has gone viral. People from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies all over the country have participated.”

Although the origin of the challenge is unknown, the social media fad has sprung up nationwide encompassing not only first responders, but the general community as well.

“Easily 100 people or better have done it locally” said Shepard “Mostly cops and firefighters, but it’s gone viral and has branched out to other jurisdictions and agencies in Florida and elsewhere. There are no restrictions that I know of on who can participate. You just have to be "called out" and able to follow through on your pledge donation.”

Okaloosa Sheriff, Lt. Charlie Nix told The Log that as far as he knows, the challenge started more than a year ago in the northern states with first responders challenging one another to take a dip in the frigid lakes to raise money for charity much like the popular polar bear plunges.

“It’s the nature of first responders to be challenging each other, that’s how I got started with it. When you’re challenged a lot of us take that the challenge. It’s gone rampant in our department, everyone has done it.” 

Nix said that his challenge came last week, and that he is never one to turn down a challenge for a good cause.

“It’s a good way for people to get motivated for any kind of charitable foundations that’s out there,” he said. “Social media, can work with you, or work against you, everybody will call you out. You don’t want to be that guy that wouldn’t do it.”

As for the methods of carrying out the challenge, both officers agree that the ingenuity of the ice water dunk is the best part.

“People are getting very creative with the cold water part,” said Shepard. “Truck beds have been filled with ice and water, people have donned water wings and goggles and had the water dumped over them. Each time it’s done the number of ice bags used seems to increase.”

“It goes anywhere from filling an ice tub up to sitting out in the back yard with buckets full of ice water,” said Nix. “I’ve even seen people dunk themselves in the huge green garbage containers.”

Shepard used the classic ice bucket method to fulfill her challenge, but added her own twist. As the School Resource Officer for the Destin Elementary School, Shepard incorporated the student body into her video, by enlisting several children to dump the icy water over her head.

During her video clip Shepard asked the students, “Why are we doing this?” to which they replied, “To help others!”

“The challenge gave me an opportunity to reinforce my mantra at Destin Elementary — lead by example, help others whenever possible and do the right thing even when no one is looking,” said Shepard. “I hope I made my kids at school proud.”

Shepard and Nix both gave to The Wounded Warrior Foundation and The Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranches at the conclusion of their challenge, and mentioned that the American Red Cross was also one of the local charities to make the rounds.

“Bottom line, the Cold Water Challenge is a simple, fun way to reinforce how much we believe in our soldiers and in giving to others in need in our hometowns,” said Shepard.

“People are giving, it doesn’t matter who you are. It’s just an avalanche it just keeps going,” said Nix.