The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has become a national social-media phenomenon. Everyone from Peyton Manning to Justin Timberlake have even participated.
However, few people know how the challenge actually began.
In 2007, Peter Frates was the hard-hitting, energetic captain of the Boston College baseball team. That team also featured a talented freshman catcher by the name of Tony Sanchez.
“In college you stay together, wake up and grind out your workouts together, you run together and Pete was the guy setting the pace, beating everyone,” remarked Sanchez. “He was the strongest. He was the fastest. He was our captain. It was almost like he was impervious to anything when I knew him.”
In 2012, as Sanchez began his first season with Indianapolis, Frates received a grim diagnosis. At the age of just 27, he had ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Frates, however, did not wallow in self pity, but immediately went to work, becoming an outspoken activist for awareness of the disease. He even was granted an audience to speak with the Food and Drug Administration about the disease in March of 2013.
“Pete was a guy that you went to when you needed help,” continued Sanchez. However, this time Frates needed help. Despite all his efforts, awareness for ALS was not growing at the rate he wanted.
That was until last month, when a friend introduced Pete to the Ice Bucket Challenge, and he took the fight to a new level.
Frates reached out to challenge his friends, which included several former Boston College athletes, to take the challenge and donate to ALS.
From there the phenomenon began.
Tony got in on the action out of the gate.
And was then joined by some of his Tribe teammates, including top pitching prospect Nick Kingham.
The Indians organization joined in on the challenge when they pledged to donate $1 for every retweet and share of Rowdie’s challenge to his fellow Indianapolis mascots Blue, Boomer and Freddy Fever.
And finally, wives of several Tribe players took the plunge.
Pete’s challenge has created a world-wide awareness for ALS. As of the end of July, the ALS Association had received $13.3 million in donations. By comparison, during the same time period a year earlier, the ALS Association had $1.7 million in donations. Additionally, these donations came with an onslaught of new supporters – over 250,000 new donors.
But for Tony, the ALS challenge is more than just dumping a bucket of ice water over your head or making a donation, it’s about family.
“Your college team, it’s like a family. And one of our family members is fighting for his life right now. We all support him and are there for him. At times I wish I was in the northeast, so I could see him more or do more. Yeah I can do the Ice bucket challenge and donate, but right now I need to see him. I have already lost one person close to me to ALS and I don’t really want to lose another.”