Ex-college player who inspired ice bucket challenge honored

BOSTON — The man who inspired the ice bucket challenge was honored on Tuesday for helping to raise millions of dollars for Lou Gehrig's disease research.

Sept. 5 was declared Pete Frates Day, Mayor Martin Walsh said, as the former Boston College baseball star was feted by more than 100 people outside City Hall.

"What it showed us is that ordinary people can make a difference," Walsh, a Democrat, said of the challenge Frates inspired. "It shows when you have a great idea you can have a rippling effect that reaches far beyond any one individual person."

Frates was diagnosed in 2012 with Lou Gehrig's disease, also called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, and can no longer speak or move. He said in a statement read by his wife, Julie Frates, that it was "amazing" and "humbling" to be honored by the city he loves.

His mother, Nancy Frates, said he has helped "alter the trajectory of a disease" that was relatively unknown and lacked adequate funding for research before the ice bucket challenge took off in the summer of 2014.

The global social media phenomenon, in which people dumped buckets of ice water over their heads and then nominated others to do the same, raised more than $200 million for ALS research.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred, Boston Red Sox officials, the Boston College baseball team and Frates' family members were on hand for Tuesday's festivities.

Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said Frates "belongs on the Mount Rushmore of sports" for his contributions to finding a cure for ALS.

In June, the bucket Frates used for his ice bucket challenge at Fenway Park was enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, along with other mementos from his Boston College days.

Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, recently signed a bill making the first week of each August Ice Bucket Challenge Week in the state.

The disease was named for New York Yankees legend Lou Gehrig, a famously durable first baseman who played in 2,130 consecutive games and earned the nickname The Iron Horse.

Gehrig retired from baseball after his diagnosis at age 36. In his farewell speech, he acknowledged his disease as a "bad break" but declared himself "the luckiest man on the face of the earth." He died two years later, in 1941.

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