Anthony Senerchia Jr., who was an inspiration for the viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, died on Saturday at the age of 46, ending a 14-year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
“He worked tirelessly to raise awareness for ALS and was directly responsible for the world-renowned Ice bucket challenge,” his obituary said, calling him “a fireball who tried everything in life.”
Senerchia was diagnosed with ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 2003.
“It’s a difficult disease and tough when you’re losing,” his wife, Jeanette, told the Journal News Media Group. “Your body is failing you. But he was a fighter… He was our light. He made our life better.”
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went viral and raised $115 million during two months in 2014 — money that went largely to fund research. And Anthony Senerchia played a significant role in getting it started.
When Jeanette Senerchia’s cousin, golfer Chris Kennedy, was nominated early on to participate in the challenge, it was not yet specifically connected to ALS. But when Kennedy passed along the challenge to others, he chose the ALS Association as a beneficiary because of Anthony Senerchia’s battle with the disease. It took off from there.
“What started out as a small gesture to put a smile on Anthony’s face and bring some awareness to this terrible disease has turned into a national phenomenon,” Kennedy told TIME in 2014, “and it is something we never could have dreamed of.”
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