"Cold Water Challenge" helps charity, causes concern

Brad Bales has done several challenges in his family's pond.
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There's new concern over people going to the extreme to raise money for some very good causes.

The "Cold Water Challenge" has good intentions, but in some cases recently, people have been seriously hurt, prompting warnings from schools and doctors across the country.

The stunts are all over social media: people taking a plunge in icy cold water to raise money for charity. Through requests on Facebook, it becomes a chain reaction to help a good cause in a creative way.

"The way it works, I accept your challenge and I pay $10 to a charity of my choice. If I don't accept your challenge, I pay $100 to a charity of your choice," explained Brad Bales of Martinsville.

Bales did the challenge on his family's private lake and posted the video on Facebook. He climbed a ladder up a tree to his rope swing, pushed off, and launched into the cold water, all to fight cancer.

"It was definitely cold," Bales said. "The surface was cold, 12 feet under was colder."

Brad's challenge was a tribute to his cousin, who died battling cancer and to his sister who's still in the fight. The cash went to Relay for Life and the "Sonny Miller Strong" fund, created in honor of a Martinsville police officer who passed away in 2012.

"It's just good fun to raise money for a charity of your choice," Bales said.

But there are growing concerns about the Cold Water Challenge. Across the country recently, there have been reports of injuries - some very serious.

A man was paralyzed in Michigan after completing the challenge. A girl in Wisconsin had to have knee surgery when she got hurt hitting a lake's rocky bottom. In Minnesota, a teenage boy drowned after friends say he attempted the challenge in a lake alone.

"Just because you see it on the Internet doesn't mean it's a safe activity to do," said emergency room physician Dr. Doug Brunette.

"This also could cause cardiac arrest or drowning," added an officer with the Coast Guard.

"You definitely have to choose your challenge wisely," Bales said.

Bales felt comfortable with his challenge, because he knows his family's lake and its depth. His son was with him during the challenge. He's also done this many times during the summer.

But even Bales advises caution for others, so good intentions don't go wrong.

"There's a lot of safe ways of doing it and having really good fun, raising money for a charity," he said.

A Cold Water Challenge is different from a polar plunge you've likely seen people do for charity.

Those larger events usually have medical staff on hand, just in case someone gets hurt. Doctors advise if you take the challenge, have people with you and be smart about how and where you do it.

Or find another way to support your favorite charity.