Pete Frates: Memorial to Trend

Ethan Verderber, Writer

 On December 9th, 2019, a national icon died. Have you heard the name Pete Frates? My guess is no. Have you heard about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? Most of us probably have, given the scale it had all over social media. Big names like Dwayne Johnson, Bill Gates, and Will Smith took a go at it. Since 2014, when the trend kicked off, it made 15 million dollars for organizations involved in helping those afflicted with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. 

   Frates was the man who popularized the Ice Bucket Challenge as a fundraiser. He didn’t start it, but his story was the catalyst that led to the challenge’s digital explosion. He played basketball for Boston College but was diagnosed with ALS, a neurodegenerative disease that damages the central nervous system slowly over time. His family popularized the challenge by dumping buckets of ice water on one another in their backyard.

   Now, why the “Ice Bucket Challenge?” Why pour a bucket of ice water over your head in the name of the disease? It’s dark, honestly‒doing so mimics the feeling of having ALS. The numbness is almost a tribute to what those afflicted with it feel and it’s a shame to see people treat this more as a trend rather than as a memorial to Pete Frates and others with ALS. 

   Frates has even been lost by the medically enthusiastic: Jillian Siazon (11), on the board of West’s Med Club, hasn’t heard the name. When asked if she has heard of Pete Frates, she said “No, I have not! I didn’t do the ice bucket challenge, but [people] should be more aware.” Of course, Jillian isn’t to blame, in truth being well aware of social climate. 

   While the challenge was assuredly a blessing to the ALS community and their family, it’s sad that many have forgotten about the man who kicked it all off. More unfortunate still, we’ve lost Frates, a true internet trend legend and hero to the hopeful.