US athlete who inspired 'ice bucket challenge' dies

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Aden - Yasmin Abdel Azim - Pete Frates, the man who inspired the viral #IceBucketChallenge that raised millions of dollars for ALS research, has died at age 34. Image Credit: AFP

New York: A former US college baseball player who helped inspire the global phenomenon known as the “ice bucket challenge” to tackle a deadly neurodegenerative disease has died at the age of 34, his family said Monday.

A one-time college athlete from the Boston area, Pete Frates’ struggle with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, was one of the inspirations behind the ice bucket challenge which took social media by storm in 2014.

Millions took up the challenge which involved dousing themselves with a bucket of ice cold water and posting the video online, before making a donation to medical research and daring others to do the same.

A galaxy of celebrities, high-profile personalities and entire sports teams took part in the challenge, including Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg, Bill Gates and even former US president George W. Bush.

The campaign has reportedly raised more than $200 million to fund research into ALS, whose sufferers’ bodies slowly shut down as their nervous systems degenerate.

The condition, officially known as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is more commonly called Lou Gehrig’s disease after another baseball player who died of it in 1941.

“Pete passed away surrounded by his loving family, peacefully at age 34, after a heroic battle with ALS,” his family said in a statement.

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

Frates’ friend Corey Griffin, a 27-year-old philanthropist who was instrumental in helping the fund-raising campaign go viral, died in a swimming accident shortly after the online phenomenon took off.

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