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'The Face of the Ice Bucket Challenge' Dead at 34

Pete Frates, who battled ALS, popularized the challenge
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 9, 2019 3:15 PM CST
In this Sept. 18, 2017 photo, Pete Frates, who is stricken with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, listens to a guest at Fenway Park in Boston.   (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
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(Newser) – Pete Frates, a former college baseball player whose determined battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease made him, per CBS Boston, "the face of" the ALS ice bucket challenge that has raised more than $200 million worldwide, died Monday, the AP reports. He was 34. Frates died peacefully, surrounded by his family, they said in a statement. “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," the family said. “He was a noble fighter who inspired us all to use our talents and strengths in the service of others." The ice bucket challenge began in 2014 when pro golfer Chris Kennedy challenged his wife’s cousin Jeanette Senerchia, whose husband has ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease after the New York Yankees great who suffered from it.

ALS patient Pat Quinn, of Yonkers, New York, picked up on it and started its spread, but when Frates and his family got involved, the phenomenon exploded on social media. Thousands of people participated, including celebrities, sports stars and politicians—even Donald Trump before his election and cartoon character Homer Simpson. Online videos were viewed millions of times. “The ALS ice bucket challenge represents all that’s great about this country—it’s about fun, friends, family, and it makes a difference to all of us living with ALS,” Frates said at the time. The challenge has raised about $220 million worldwide, including $115 million alone for the Washington-based ALS Association. Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or motor neuron disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that leads to paralysis due to the death of motor neurons in the spinal cord and brain. There is no known cure. (Click for more on Frates.)

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