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ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Influencer Pete Frates Dies at 34

Renee Fabian
Pete Frates

Pete Frates, a major influencer of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, has died at the age of 34 after being diagnosed with ALS at age 27, according to a statement from his family on Monday. His advocacy efforts helped spearhead awareness and new research initiatives for others with ALS.

Frates, a former Boston College baseball star, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 2012. ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that impacts the brain and spinal cord. According to the ALS Association, the condition can cause a wide range of progressive symptoms such as muscle weakness, slurred speech, arm and leg fatigue, inability to write, and breathing trouble. There is currently no cure and it affects approximately 16,000 people in the U.S.

In 2014, pro golfer Chris Kennedy challenged his wife’s cousin to take the ice bucket challenge — post a video of yourself dumping ice cold water on your head on social media — to raise awareness for ALS, according to Time. The challenge was promoted by Pat Quinn, who has ALS, but it really took off when Frates and his family got involved.

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The challenge raised $115 million for ALS in just eight weeks. Thanks to the viral campaign, the ALS Association was able to use these funds to initiate more than 200 new research projects and support 15,000 patients with ALS each year. In May, the Frates family also founded the Peter Frates Family Foundation to continue his work to find better treatments for ALS.

Fans, friends and the health community reacted to his death on social media and shared condolences.

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“Pete never complained about his illness. Instead, he saw it as an opportunity to give hope to other patients and their families,” his family wrote, adding:

In his lifetime, he was determined to change the trajectory of a disease that had no treatment or cure. As a result, through his determination—along with his faithful supporters, Team Frate Train — he championed the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. In August of 2014, the historic movement pioneered social media fundraising and garnered donations globally that resulted in better access to ALS care, genetic discoveries, treatments and, someday, a cure. He was a beacon of hope for all.

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