ALS Patient Who Created Ice Bucket Challenge Wins Three Honors, Rolls Out His Biography

Margarida Azevedo, MSc avatar

by Margarida Azevedo, MSc |

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Ice Bucket creator honored

The Boston prep school that ALS patient Pete Frates attended has recognized him for creating the Ice Bucket Challenge that has generated a tidal wave of funding for research on the disease.

St. John’s Prep named Frates, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 2012 at the age of 27, a Distinguished Alumnus Award.


Pete with his father John, who graduated from St. John’s Prep in 1976, and his brother Andrew, who graduated in 2006. Photo courtesy of Boston Herald.

It also named its baseball diamond after him and retired his No. 3 jersey in three sports — the first retirement in the history of Eagles athletics. Dr. Edward P. Hardiman, the school’s headmaster, announced the honors at a news conference on campus on Aug. 30.

It’s been a good week or so for Frates. He also released his biography, “Challenge,” on Sept. 5. It deals with how he and his family became inspired to create the Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014. The publisher is ForeEdge Books.

Frates turned the Ice Bucket Challenge into a global phenomenon. The social media challenge became a smash hit around the world by going viral in 2014.

It generated unprecedented fundraising in the search for a cure for ALS. The ALS Association alone received $115 million in contributions.

After being diagnosed with ALS in March 2012, Frates collaborated with a number of charities to create Team Frate Train, which eventually raised more than $220 million worldwide.

He teamed up with the ALS Association this year to create the Peter Frates Home Health Initiative, which delivers at-home caregiving assistance to Massachusetts residents with ALS.

The Distinguished Alumnus Award puts Frates in good company. Previous winners have included educators, a Roman Catholic bishop, and a National Football League head coach.

“There are so many layers of heroism within Pete’s story,” Hardiman said in a St. John’s news post. “He is an amazing role model of resilience, perseverance, inspiration and servant leadership.”

At St. John’s, Frates was a football, baseball, and hockey star. He became a Boston College center fielder for four years, and was captain of the team as a senior in 2007. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications.

St. John’s will retire Frates’ No. 3 jersey in football, baseball and hockey during a home football game on Oct. 20.

“Pete has given his time and his talent, and he and his family have been game-changers in the lives of others,” Hardiman said. “That’s something we want to recognize as a school. It’s just part of telling his story. Five or 10 or 15 years from now, when No. 3 is behind the hockey bench, or at Cronin Stadium, or painted on the baseball diamond for student-athletes to know that story, I think it will give them a deeper understanding of who they are and who they want to become.”

“As I read the headmaster’s letter that delivered the good news, the tears started to flow,” Frates said. “There is no way I could ever express how unbelievably thankful I am. I gratefully accept this honor on behalf of my entire family, especially my parents, who worked so incredibly hard to put me and my brother Andrew through the greatest prep school in the country. Go Eagles.”

In related news, on Aug. 18, Governor Charlie Baker signed an act declaring the first week of every August Ice Bucket Challenge Week in Massachusetts. The act recognizes the role that the Ice Bucket Challenge viral campaign has played in ALS awareness and fundraising.

Baker participated in the challenge in August 2015 on the Statehouse steps, joined by Frates, his family, and state legislators.

House Bill 1697, which declared the Ice Bucket Challenge Week, was sponsored by State Representative Jerald A. Parisella, a Democrat from Beverly, and Senator Joan B. Lovely, a Democrat from Salem, along with more than 30 others.