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Cold water challenge shows fun side of fundraising

As fun as the videos are, the surprise fundraising success will assist survivors of fallen firefighters

I first heard about the Cold Water Challenge two months ago when videos of firefighter friends jumping into cold water surfaced on Facebook. Initially, the whole thing didn’t make much sense to me. In fact, I wondered if it were some new type of Internet scam.

The basis of the challenge is: you are called out by someone to jump into cold water within 24 hours and donate $10 to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. If you do not accept the challenge, you are to donate $100 to the NFFF. Video evidence of your completion of the challenge needs to be posted on YouTube or Facebook.

I went about my business after figuring out what the challenge was. However, I later received a notice in my email that I had been tagged in a Facebook video.

At first, I wondered what it could be. When I opened the post, it was a cold water challenge video. I had been called out by my good friend Assistant Chief Allen Rhine of the Phoenix Steam Engine Company of Hollidaysburg, Pa.

What to do? The macho side of me (yes that’s still there even at this age) said go home, change into something appropriate — flippers, goggles and a shower cap — and have some fun.

It looks wet and cold
Then the little voice in my head said, “You have to be crazy. That water is going to be freezing and remember what your mother always said.” I grew up in the 50s and 60s and whenever I told my mother everyone was doing something she would always say, “If everyone jumps in a lake are you?”

After several hours of deliberation, I decided that the EMS service in my area was busy enough without me adding to their call volume. I wrote the check to NFFF and decided that I was not going to go quietly.

I had someone video me dropping my check in the mail and I challenged two of my firefighter friends to also complete the challenge.

I wondered what type of effect this activity was having on donations to the NFFF. I made contact with the organization and was surprised to learn that they were not the ones who initiated this challenge fundraiser.

In fact, they had no idea where the event originated but that they were receiving dozens of donations from $10 to $100 every day. The week prior to my call, they had processed over 250 donations. This was a significant increase over their normal weekly volume.

“Whoever thought of this fundraiser the NFFF owes a debt of gratitude to them,” NFFF’s Eileen Collins said.

The call out
If you’re interested in doing the challenge, more information is contained on the foundation’s website. Donations will be used to support their ongoing and future programs.

One upcoming program is the expansion of the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Park to include firefighters who died in the line of duty prior to 1981 when the Memorial was built. NFFF has initiated Project: Roll Call to identify and honor firefighters those firefighters.

If you have information on a firefighter who died in the line of duty, you can enter it on NFFF’s website under Project Roll Call. You can mail it to NFFF attention Eileen Collins, PO Drawer 498, Emmitsburg, Md. 21727 or you can email

Before I close, I did find out that I could call out more than just two of my friends. So, Sarah, Betsy and the Fire Grants Help Team, you are being challenged to either accept the cold water challenge and donate $10 each to NFFF or to stay warm and dry and donate $100.

I will be waiting to see your video. The clock is ticking — you have 24 hours. Good luck, and above all, be safe.

Jerry Brant is a senior grant consultant and grant writer with FireGrantsHelp and EMSGrantsHelp. He has 46 years of experience as a volunteer firefighter in west-central Pennsylvania. He is a life member of the Hope Fire Company of Northern Cambria, where he served as chief for 15 years. He is an active member of the Patton Fire Company 1 and serves as safety officer. Brant graduated from Saint Francis University with a bachelor’s degree in political science. In 2003, he was awarded a James A Johnson Fellowship by the FannieMae Foundation for his accomplishments in community development, and in 2019, he was honored as with the Leroy C Focht Sr. Memorial Award from the Central District Volunteer Fireman’s Association. He has successfully written more than $70 million in grant applications. Brant can be reached via email.