Peter Frates, pioneer of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, died on Monday at the age of 34, seven years after being diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease.
In July 2014, Frates, his family and his friends started challenging each other to douse themselves with a bucket full of ice water. Prominent figures in Boston sports soon took notice. From there, the challenge went viral, spreading among celebrities, politicians and more.
Even as Frates lost the ability to speak, he became the voice of a movement, using social media to promote the Ice Bucket Challenge. He hoped the money would finance research into the deadly disease, even if “the solutions may not arrive quickly enough to benefit [him],” as he wrote in his own words in 2014 for Bleacher Report. At the time, Frates and his wife were expecting a child.
“I may not be able to say ‘I love you’ with my own voice,” he wrote, “but the love I will feel will be every bit as strong. I may not know how many years I have left, but I will fight harder and harder each day to be there as a father and a husband.”
Since then, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge raised as much as $200 million, according to Boston Globe. These donations financed a team of physicians who isolated a gene variation present in many ALS patients, according to CBS News.
“[Frates] was an inspiration to so many people around the world who drew strength from his courage and resiliency,” the Frates family said in a statement.
An avid sportsman, Frates was an outfielder for Boston College baseball, serving as captain in his senior year. In 2007, he set a record by hitting a grand slam, a three-run homer and a double in a single game. After graduating, he played in the German Baseball League and coached young players.
A month after the challenge went viral in August 2014, not having done the challenge himself, Frates finally took the plunge.
Frates paid homage to ALS’ most famous victim, Lou Gherig, who publicly revealed his diagnosis in his “luckiest man” speech in 1939. Gherig died two years later.
“My dream is for this article to be found by someone in a Google search one day—much like the one that linked my symptoms to ALS—and for he or she to wonder how anyone ever could have died from something treated so easily,” Frates wrote in a Bleacher Report op-ed. “I want the 100th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s speech to be a celebration of a courageous man who became the poster boy for a disease with a cure, not a cruel reminder of how nothing has changed in a century.”
For his role in raising the public’s awareness of ALS, PRWeek named Frates Communicator of the Year in 2015.