Senate President Stephen Sweeney
Deputy Speaker John Burzichelli
Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro

Star Ledger – It’s not unusual for members of the New Jersey Senate to dress in neatly pressed suits and gather on the steps of the Statehouse for a news conference.

But today was likely the first time one ended with them being doused by buckets of cold water.

Six members of the upper house of the state Legislature — including Senate President Stephen Sweeney — took part in the Ice Bucket Challenge that has swept the Internet in recent weeks, raising awareness and money to battle ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

The senators also presented a check for $30,000 to the Greater New York chapter of the ALS Association — the largest donation the branch has received since the campaign started last month.

“So many people have lost loved ones to ALS,” said state Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-Essex), who organized the bipartisan dousing. “It’s a terrible disease. We need to get more research.”

O’Toole and his colleagues were the latest in a string of New Jersey political leaders and lawmakers who have braved icy showers in an effort to make such research possible.

The campaign is simple: You have 24 hours to get drenched in ice water or donate $100 to a charity working on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, an incurable, degenerative disease. Many people do both. Then, you nominate a handful of friends or family members to do the same.

Videos of the challenge have flooded Facebook and Twitter over the last two weeks. In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie was among the first celebrities to film themselves getting soaked. He nominated U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who quickly followed suit. State Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union) and state Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) also took part.

So have a number of politicians across the country, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal — like Christie, a possible candidate for the 2016 Republican nomination for president — and various members of Congress.

Everyone from Justin Timberlake to Ethel Kennedy to members of the Jets, Giants, Mets, Devils, Rangers, and Islanders sports organizations have gotten drenched. Christie helped douse New Jersey rocker Jon Bon Jovi, as well.

The ALS Association says its 38 chapters have received $15.6 million in donations since July 29 — significantly larger than the $1.8 million it raised over the same period last year.

“We couldn’t have imagined this kind of attention,” said Dorine Gordon, president of the New York chapter, which includes northern New Jersey. “It really has been incredible the way it’s taken off.”

O’Toole said his son, Kevin Jr., pushed him last week to take the challenge. The senator planned to donate $10,000 himself as long as a few other members of the Senate helped.

Today, Sweeney (D-Gloucester), Sen. Peter Barnes (D-Middlesex), Sen. Donald Norcross (D-Camden), Sen. Steven Oroho (R-Sussex), Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) joined O’Toole. This was actually the second time Norcross, who is running for Congress this year, accepted the challenge.

O’Toole, an attorney, said they raised the $30,000 in donations from friends, clients, and people who lost loved ones to ALS.

Gordon said donations to the New York chapter of the ALS Association have jumped 947 percent because of the campaign — but today’s check was especially impressive.

“The New Jersey senators brought the Ice Bucket Challenge to a new level,” the chapter president said. “It will certainly make a difference.”

For his part, Booker donated $100 when he took the challenge last week, a spokeswoman said. Christie also planned on donating money, if he hasn’t already, a spokesman said.

How did today’s soaking feel?

“It was pretty freezing,” O’Toole said. “It took my breath away. I was more delighted to see it happen to the Senate president.”

Of course, Sweeney was the only one not to wear a suit. He was dressed in a T-shirt and gym shorts.

“He chickened out,” O’Toole joked.

District Offices

Gloucester County

Kingsway Commons
935 Kings Highway, Suite 400
West Deptford, NJ 08086
Phone: (856) 251-9801
Fax: (856) 251-9752

Salem/Cumberland Counties

The Finlaw Building
199 East Broadway, Suite G
Salem, NJ 08079
Phone: (856) 339-0808 or
             (856) 455-1011
Fax: (856) 339-9626