Ice Bucket Challenge inspiration Pete Frates dies at 34

Pete Frates, pictured with his wife and daughter, was 27 when he was diagnosed with ALS
Pete Frates, pictured with his wife and daughter, was 27 when he was diagnosed with ALS (Getty Imges)

(BBC) Pete Frates, the former college baseball star who helped inspire the viral Ice Bucket Challenge, has died.

Mr Frates had been fighting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, since being diagnosed in 2012 at 27.

He passed away peacefully on Monday at the age of 34, surrounded by his family, they said in a statement.

The Ice Bucket Challenge generated millions in donations and helped fund important research into the disease.

“Pete was an inspiration to so many people around the world who drew strength from his courage and resiliency,” the Frates family said.

“A natural born leader and the ultimate teammate, Pete was a role model for all, especially young athletes, who looked up to him for his bravery and unwavering positive spirit in the face of adversity.”

Mr Frates was a standout baseball player at Boston College in the US state of Massachusetts, serving as team captain in his final year.

He went on to play professional baseball in Germany, eventually returning to the US and playing in amateur leagues.

Shortly after a minor injury during a game in 2011, he was diagnosed with ALS – a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal chord, causing immobility. There is no cure.

The Ice Bucket Challenge did not originate with Mr Frates, but he and his family helped it gain national attention and become a social media phenomenon in the summer of 2014.

To complete the challenge, people would dump a bucket of ice water over their heads and post the video to social media, challenging others to do the same or make a donation to ALS research. Often, people did both.

More than 17 million people uploaded videos to Facebook.

The challenge drew high-profile participants like former President George W Bush, Oprah Winfrey, Lady Gaga and President Donald Trump.

According to the ALS Association, $115m (£87m) was donated through the challenge during an eight-week period in 2014.

Some estimate up to $220m was donated worldwide as a result of the challenge.

In response to Mr Frates’ death, the ALS Association tweeted: “Pete Frates changed the trajectory of ALS forever and showed the world how to live with a fatal disease. His efforts to lead the Ice Bucket Challenge had a significant impact on the search for treatments and a cure for ALS.”

Donations from the Ice Bucket Challenge led to a significant discovery of a gene that contributes to the disease, according to the ALS Association.