BOSTON — Beverly native and ALS Ice Bucket Challenge creator Pete Frates has passed away at the age of 34.
Frates grew up on the North Shore and lived a busy life, studying communications and history at Boston College while balancing life as captain of the baseball team. Baseball even took him to Europe, where he played the sport professionally.
At the age of 27, Pete Frates was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, which effects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord as it attacks muscles and makes them weaker.
The disease has no cure.
Frates decided to use the diagnosis to began advocacy and fundraising work for ALS research, and eventually came up with the "Ice Bucket Challenge," which became a viral phenomenon in 2014.
"It's been transformative, "said Sabrina Paganoni, an ALS physician. "It really changed everything in ALS. Before the ALS Challenge people didn't know what [it] was."
The challenge made headlines around the world, with celebrities, politicians, sports stars and everyone in between all recording themselves pouring buckets of ice water over their heads before nominating others to do the same in a 24-hour time period. If they didn't comply, they were to make a donation to ALS research.
The "Ice Bucket Challenge" went viral on social media, and was a game-changer for fundraising as it raised millions of dollars for ALS research and awareness.
Then, "Pete's Plunge" became another way to raise awareness and money for ALS research, with many joining the fray to show their support for the cause.
"It would have been very easy to retreat into solitude, retreat into anger, but they chose to take the public path because they realized they had a unique opportunity through Pete's celebrity to help find a cure," said Jack Dunn, a spokesperson for Boston College.
Frates turned the whole tragedy into an inspiration as he married his wife, Julie, and welcomed a daughter named Lucy in August of 2014.
"She's just such a positive light," Julie Frates said of the couple's daughter. "She keeps us going, she's the reason we do all of this."
As the disease progressed, the Frates family raised awareness about the cost of care, opening up about the $90,000 a month bills to keep him comfortable.
"What is the cost of a life?" Frates' father John said. "He's contributed 250 million dollars, he's credited that in six weeks' time in the largest viral sensation in mankind. Is $3,000 a day too much to ask?"
Even through the struggles, Pete Frates remained true to his roots and his mission, visiting Fenway Park each spring with the Boston College baseball team to raise ALS awareness and help others.
"As soon as this disease comes into your world, personally, there's no getting away from it," Nancy Frates said. "We're all family."
The Frates family continued their push to help, setting up the Pete Frates Family Foundation to help others who are battling ALS.
"He's the same Pete that he was 7 years ago when he sat at this kitchen table and told us we had an opportunity to change the world," Nancy Frates said when the foundation was set up.
Frates lived his life as a fighter, battling ALS with all he could for six years and fighting for the cause with everything he had. His contributions were unmatched, and captured the hearts of many throughout both New England and the country.
While his battle may have ended, his name, legacy and work will all live on through his foundation as contributions and work towards a cure continue for years to come.
Pete was brought into the world by his parents, John and Nancy, and was an incredible husband to his wife Julie, father to his daughter Lucy, brother to his siblings Andrew Frates and Jennifer Mayo, and grandson to Jerry and Joan D'Alfonso and Jack and Margaret Frates.
Frates will be laid to rest on Friday morning at St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish in Chestnut Hill alongside the campus of Boston College. His funeral mass will be at 11 a.m.
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