Pete Frates, Ice Bucket Challenge inspiration, died of ALS at 34

The former Boston College baseball player helped raise millions for ALS treatment and research by popularizing the Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014.
/ Source: TODAY

Pete Frates, the inspirational former Boston College baseball player who helped popularize the viral Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014, has died at 34 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, according to his family.

The Frates family released a statement through Boston College on Monday saying that Frates "passed away surrounded by his loving family, peacefully at age 34, after a heroic battle with ALS."

Pete Frates, who helped popularize the Ice Bucket Challenge and raise millions to fight ALS, has died at 34. Boston Globe / Getty Images

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

Frates, a married father of a 4-year-old daughter, helped raise millions of dollars for ALS research and treatments while living with the disease for seven years.

NBC News anchor Kate Snow, who previously reported on Frates' story, offered her condolences on Monday.

"I am heartbroken to hear of the passing of Pete Frates,'' she tweeted. "I had the honor of meeting him — the man behind the ALS #IceBucketChallenge that we all remember from 2014. My thoughts are with his wife, parents, daughter and entire family."

The average life expectancy for people with ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, is two to five years, according to the ALS Association. Half of all people affected with ALS live at least three or more years, 20% live five years or more and up to 10% live more than 10 years.

"It's an amazing thing to witness to see how a disease has completely ravaged his physical body, but his spirit and soul lives on,'' his mother, Nancy Frates, told TODAY in July for the fifth anniversary of the Ice Bucket Challenge.

There is no cure for ALS, which causes patients to progressively lose the use of their muscles, often becoming completely paralyzed except for their eyes, according to the ALS Association. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 12,187 people in the United States have ALS.

Frates' inspirational presence is what helped propel the Ice Bucket Challenge to a ubiquitous place on social media in the summer of 2014, when everyone from former President George W. Bush to the TODAY anchors to Martha Stewart was dumping ice water over their heads to raise money to fight ALS.

The Ice Bucket Challenge began when Chris Kennedy, a golfer from Florida, nominated the wife of Anthony Senerchia, who was living with ALS, to dump a bucket of ice water on her head. Senerchia's story reached Quinn and then grew exponentially after Frates and his wide circle of friends began posting videos.

Senerchia died at 46 in 2017 after living with ALS for 14 years.

About 17 million people uploaded videos of themselves doing the Ice Bucket Challenge that received more than 10 billion total views, according to the ALS Association.

The money raised by the Ice Bucket Challenge led to the discovery of five new genes connected to ALS. The ALS Association expanded its clinical network by 50% and committed nearly $90 million in research funding between 2014 and 2018.

The challenge has raised more than $220 million in donations worldwide.