By now, you’ve probably seen at least a handful of your Facebook friends risk humiliation and hypothermia by dumping ice on their heads in the name of ALS.
Within just a few weeks, the grassroots “ice bucket challenge” reached Mark Zuckerberg, who naturally challenged Bill Gates to do it next. The rules, after all, demand that you task a friend to participate or donate money, Huffington Post reports.
After Ethel Kennedy – widow of Kennedy – doused herself in ice cubes, she challenged President Obama to do the same. He opted to take the contribution route instead.
Pete Frates – the 29-year-old native Bostonian, who was diagnosed with ALS two years ago, did it in his beloved Fenway Park, surrounded by Red Sox manager, John Farrell and a number of his family members, including his pregnant wife.
Initially, Frates said on Facebook in July, “ice water and ALS are a bad mix”. But Frates deserves a break for waiting, even if he sat back and watched 200 people in Copley Square get involved in the challenge in his honor on Aug. 7. It was the event that put the ice bucket challenge on the map and all over social media. After all, his commitment to getting the word out helped bring in nearly $6 million for ALS organizations.
It’s these kinds of staggering figures he had been hoping for from the very beginning. Back in 2012, Frates was experiencing some of the quintessential ALS symptoms, but he didn’t know it at the time. He Googled some of what had been bothering him and he was shocked when a number of sites pointed him to ALS – a progressive neurodegenerative disease that leads to muscle weakness, loss of the use of arms and legs and difficulty speaking, breathing and swallowing.
This kind of debilitating disease wasn’t “supposed” to strike a strong accomplished athlete like Frates. The former Division I college baseball player saw his dreams come true when he hit a homerun in the Beanpot Championship at Fenway. However, just as soon as Frates got his diagnosis, he decided to devise a new dream. Two years after his diagnosis, the disease – which has no cure or treatment – has advanced quickly.
Frates is now paralyzed, can’t talk and relies on a feeding tube to eat. He’s able to communicate by using eye-tracking technology. But as is the case with many people living with ALS, Frates’ mind is sharp. “Inside I’m as sharp as ever – if not sharper than I’ve ever been,” Frates said in a video posted to his website. “Because when you sit and can’t really move, when you’re observing all day you notice every little thing. My memory has gotten better. I just notice things I didn’t notice before.”
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