BOSTON (CBS) – Pete Frates, an ALS advocate who was the inspiration behind the Ice Bucket Challenge, has died at 34 years old. Frates, a former Boston College baseball captain, was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in March 2012 at the age of 27. He and his family made significant efforts to raise awareness and money to try and find a cure for the progressive disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
A Boston College spokesman confirmed Frates’ death on Monday.
“On behalf of Julie, Lucy, John, Nancy, Jennifer and Andrew, along with his extended family and multitude of friends, we ask that you celebrate Pete and the hope that he has given to so many by following his daily affirmation: Be passionate, be genuine, be hardworking and don’t ever be afraid to be great,” the family said in a statement.
Frates was the inspiration behind the Ice Bucket Challenge, which became a viral sensation in the summer of 2014. About 17 million people from around the world raised more than $200 million worldwide for the fight against ALS.
A funeral mass will be held at St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish in Chestnut Hill on Friday Dec. 13 at 11 a.m. A celebration of life will be on the North Shore at a later date.
During the social media phenomenon, people were challenged to dump a bucket of ice water over their head, donate to the cause and ask friends to do the same.
The Frates family vowed to continue the Ice Bucket Challenge every August until there is a cure.
The campaign reached worldwide levels with professional athletes, politicians and celebrities participating and donating.
“I cannot thank all who have participated thus far enough. Your enthusiasm and creativity have propelled our little-known disease to the forefront of the global stage,” Frates said in 2014.
In July 2016, funded by Ice Bucket Challenge donations, an international team of doctors was able to isolate a gene variation that is present in many ALS patients.
“Global collaboration among scientists, which was really made possible by ALS Ice Bucket Challenge donations, led to this important discovery,” said University of Massachusetts Medical School Dr. John Landers.
In December 2014, Frates was named one of Sports Illustrated’s “Inspirations of the Year.”
Frates was also given the NCAA Inspiration Award in December 2016. Because he was unable to travel to Nashville to receive the award, NCAA president Dr. Mark Emmert and members of the Boston College baseball team arrived Frates’ house to present him with the award.
“He inspires us every day,” BC baseball captain Bobby Skogsbergh said after Frates was presented the Inspiration Award. “Talk about Jesuit mission at Boston College, it’s men and women for others, I can’t think of anybody who embodies that more than Pete Frates.”
Frates was an outfielder for Boston College’s baseball team from 2004 to 2007. He started 107 games for the Eagles and remained heavily involved with the program following graduation.
Boston College retired his number 3 during an ALS awareness game in May 2016. His father John said at the time that his son is “forever linked” to Boston College. In June 2019, Boston College also announced it is naming a new baseball and softball training facility the Pete Frates Center.
St. John’s Prep also retired Frates’ number in football, hockey and baseball. He graduated from the school in 2003.
Frates was hospitalized several times following his diagnosis, including in July when a journalist falsely reported that he had died.
Battling ALS proved costly for the Frates family. In order to fulfill a promise to keep Pete living at home, the Frates family faced medical bills that could reach $85,000-$95,000 per month.
To help offset those costs, a family friend spearheaded a pilot program called the Pete Frates Home Health Initiative in conjunction with the ALS Association.
Pete and Julie Frates married eight months after he was diagnosed with ALS. When she was asked why, given the struggles Pete would face, she said “I just love him and that’s that.”
The couple had a daughter, Lucy, who is now five years old.
Family members said anyone who wishes to extend condolences can make a donation to the Peter Frates Family Foundation.