FORT MYERS, Fla. - The hottest trend in social media right now is also one of the coldest, and it's sweeping through Southwest Florida. Facebook is filled with so-called "Cold Water Challenges," in which friends challenge each other to donate to charity.
Once a challenge is issued, the recipient has a choice: make the donation - usually under $25 - or take a plunge into an ice bath.
That's where it gets interesting. If the challenged takes the plunge, the challenger agrees to make a donation on the other person's behalf. Either way, the charity wins.
The social media fad is especially popular among firefighters, police, and first responders. A quick search of Facebook and YouTube showed several recent examples, ranging from Pine Island to LaBelle, and Charlotte County to Collier County. Even WINK News reporters Haley Hinds, Jenny Jones, and Megan Contreras have taken the plunge after being challenged by friends and viewers.
Fort Myers firefighter Jeff Linn took the plunge on Monday, after he was called out by fellow firefighters on Facebook over the weekend.
"I think it's great," he told WINK News. "It gets people to donate. And if they don't, they have fun doing it."
But firefighter Keith Cortner isn't so sure. He opted to cut a check after he was challenged.
"I'm not a cold water person," Cortner joked. "I'll pay the the $25 to charity."
Experts warn those choosing to plunge into ice water to be careful. As the stunt sweeps across the nation, there have been reports of broken bones, blown knees, and other injuries related to slips and falls. Donors are also encouraged to make sure the charity they are giving to is legitimate.
"Polar Plunges" have long been popular in northern states during winter months. Floridians have found the challenges to be an opportunity to cool off, if only for a moment.
WINK News watched as Linn dumped several buckets of ice into a clean garbage can filled with water, then jumped in feet first from a ladder. He didn't stay there long.
"It's cold," he said after climbing out. "It wasn't Florida water, that's for sure."
Money raised by Linn and Cortner will benefit a fellow Southwest Florida firefighter battling cancer.