It began with a simple idea: Fill a bucket with water, throw in some ice and dump it over your head — all to raise money to find a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
In summer 2014, the “Ice Bucket Challenge” flooded the internet, with people from Irish nuns to celebrities to entire pro-sports teams filming themselves dumping buckets of ice water on their heads and then challenging their friends to do the same and donate money to research for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
More than 17 million people ended up participating, bringing massive attention to an otherwise obscure disease. Nearly $220 million was raised for various ALS organizations in the process.
And it was Pete Frates, a young college athlete from suburban Massachusetts, who helped make the challenge go viral.
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Growing up outside of Boston, Frates was a three sport all-star in high school. He was captain of the football and hockey teams, but baseball was his life’s passion.
He went on to play center field for Division 1 Boston College, and in his final year, Frates was named captain of the baseball team. During a grudge match against rival Harvard, he hit a monster home run in Fenway Park.
“Who hits a home run at Fenway Park, you know? And it’s kind of like every kid’s dream,” said Frates’ college roommate Jay Connolly. “He’s just like a bigger-than-life guy.”
After a short stint playing professional ball overseas, Frates came back to Boston to start a job selling insurance and met the love of his life, Julie Frates. The two dreamed of marriage and children, but only six months after they started dating, Frates said he started feeling odd and having trouble with simple tasks like buttoning his shirt.
After a series of tests, doctors asked him to come in — and to bring his parents with him.
“As soon as we open the door, they said, ‘Are you the Frateses? Come right in.’ Oh, boy,” said Pete’s father, John Frates. “He [the doctor] said, ‘This is not the common cold. This is not Lyme disease. … It’s not Parkinson’s. It’s not MS I hate to tell you, Pete, Mr. and Mrs. Frates, you have ALS.’”
It was a death sentence. ALS is a rare neurological disease that robs patients…