Pete Frates dies after ‘courageous and public battle’ with ALS

"He was a noble fighter who inspired us all to use our talents and strengths in the service of others."

FILE -In this Sept. 18, 2017 photograph, Pete Frates, who is stricken with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, listens to a guest at Fenway Park in Boston. On Thursday, June 27, 2019, Boston College unveiled plans for the Pete Frates Center, a new indoor baseball and softball training facility that will be named after the alumnus who helped popularize the ice bucket challenge. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
Pete Frates on Sept. 18, 2017. –Charles Krupa / AP, File

Pete Frates, the Beverly native who championed the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, passed away on Monday after his “heroic battle” with the degenerative disease, his family said in a statement released by his alma mater, Boston College. He was 34.

“Pete was an inspiration to so many people around the world who drew strength from his courage and resiliency,” his loved ones wrote. “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. He was a noble fighter who inspired us all to use our talents and strengths in the service of others.”

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He leaves behind his wife, Julie, and their daughter, Lucy.

Frates, a former captain of the Boston College baseball team, was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 2012 at the age of 27. In 2014, he helped propel the disease into the public consciousness after he was nominated to perform the Ice Bucket Challenge, tapping into the vast Boston sports community. The challenge quickly exploded, spreading from the sports community and Boston to the rest of the world with entire cities, celebrities, tech moguls, and even former presidents filming themselves getting doused with ice water to raise awareness for ALS. More than 17 million videos related to the challenge were shared on Facebook and watched by more than 440 million people, over 10 billion times. The campaign has been credited with raising over $225 million worldwide.

“It didn’t just raise money,’’ Lynn Aaronson, executive director of the Massachusetts Chapter of the ALS Association, told Boston.com in 2016. “People took the time to go and check out what ALS was, so it truly did raise both awareness and funds.’’

While he was raising awareness about ALS, Frates “never complained about his illness,” his loved ones said Monday.

“Instead, he saw it as an opportunity to give hope to other patients and their families,” they wrote. “In his lifetime, he was determined to change the trajectory of a disease that had no treatment or cure. … He was a beacon of hope for all.”

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As news of his death spread Monday, messages of mourning echoed across the commonwealth and within the communities touched by his leadership.

@PeteFrates3 was one the most courageous and inspirational people I have ever met,” Gov. Charlie Baker wrote. “He and his family changed the world for ALS patients & their families. Rest In Peace Pete. You earned it.”

A funeral for Frates will be held at a date to be determined at St. Ignatius Church in Chestnut Hill. His family asked for mourners to consider making a donation to the Peter Frates Family Foundation to help ALS patients stay at home with their loved ones as they battle the disease. 

Read the full statement from the Frates family below: 

Today Heaven received our angel: Peter Frates. A husband to Julie, a father to Lucy, a son to John and Nancy, a brother to Andrew and Jennifer, Pete passed away surrounded by his loving family, peacefully at age 34, after a heroic battle with ALS.

Pete was an inspiration to so many people around the world who drew strength from his courage and resiliency.

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. He was a noble fighter who inspired us all to use our talents and strengths in the service of others.

Remarkably, Pete never complained about his illness. Instead, he saw it as an opportunity to give hope to other patients and their families. 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.

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.

As we prepare to lay Pete to rest, we ask that you respect our privacy while we mourn his loss. For those who would like to extend an expression of sympathy, please consider making a donation to the Peter Frates Family Foundation, 21 Landers Drive, Beverly, MA 01915 or online at petefrates.com/donate. Pete’s foundation’s mission is to aid progressed ALS patients in their desire to stay at home with those who love them most.

Pete’s funeral Mass will be held at St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish, located at 28 Commonwealth Ave. in Chestnut Hill, Mass., alongside the campus of his beloved alma mater, Boston College. The date and time of the service will be announced as soon as it is finalized. A celebration of his life will be held on the North Shore of Boston at a later date.

The Frates family wishes to express its sincere gratitude for the abundant love, kindness, and support we have been the recipients of during the past eight years. 

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