A disease-fighting publicity campaign gone viral now has at least one presidential participant. In a video posted on Wednesday, George W. Bush was doused by ice water in the ALS ice bucket challenge - and nominated his predecessor, Bill Clinton, to get wet, too.
“To you all who’s challenged me, I do not think it’s presidential for me to be splashed with ice water, so I’m simply going to write you a check,” Bush says in the video.
Then Laura Bush is shown dumping a bucket of cold water over her husband, who calls out in a bit of shock.
“That check is from me,” Laura Bush says into the camera. “I don’t want to ruin my hair style.”
The former president’s video is part of a public awareness and fundraising campaign that has enjoyed remarkable success in recent weeks. Started by Pete Frates, 29, a former Boston College baseball star with ALS, the campaign encourages supporters of research to pour buckets of ice or cold water over themselves, post videos of it on social media and nominate others who should follow suit or contribute money instead.
Sports stars, politicians, actors, business magnates and thousands of everyday Americans have joined in the campaign, including Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Chris Christie, Jimmy Fallon, Justin Timberlake, Sheryl Sandberg, Matt Lauer, Kerry Washington, Lady Gaga, the New England Patriots and the cast of “Grey’s Anatomy,” among others.
The campaign has succeeded in bringing a flood of money to the ALS Association, which reported Wednesday that it has received $31.5 million in donations since July 29, compared with $1.9 million during the same period last year. The association said it now had 637,527 new donors.
Long known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS is a progressive disorder that attacks nerve cells and makes it harder to control muscle movement. It can lead to paralysis and death, and has no cure. Some studies have said football players are at higher risk and Tim Shaw, a former player for the Tennessee Titans, revealed he had ALS when he posted a bucket video this week.
Ethel Kennedy, 86, the widow of Robert F. Kennedy, doused herself and then challenged President Barack Obama to participate. A White House official said the president would send a check rather than have water poured over him.
Bush was challenged by several people to join the campaign, including his daughter Jenna Bush Hager; Woody Johnson, the owner of the New York Jets; Jim Harbaugh, coach of the San Francisco 49ers; and Rory McIlroy, the golfer.
At the end of Bush’s video, he appears in a soaked blue T-shirt with a towel over his shoulder issuing his own challenge.
“And now it’s my privilege to challenge my friend Bill Clinton to the ALS challenge,” Bush says. “Yesterday was Bill’s birthday and my gift to Bill is a bucket of cold water.”