A final plunge for man who boosted ALS ice bucket challenge

(Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via AP, Pool)

GLOUCESTER, Mass. (AP) — Supporters of Pete Frates are taking one last chilly plunge for the former college baseball player whose battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease helped spread the ALS ice bucket challenge.

The Frates family says Saturday’s annual “Plunge for Pete” at Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester, Massachusetts, will be their last.

The event, in its eighth year, raised money for the Pete Frates #3 Fund, which helped pay for Frates’ medical bills.

The former Boston College baseball player, who lived in Beverly, a suburb north of Boston, died Dec. 9 after a seven-year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. He would have turned 35 on Saturday.

John Frates, Pete’s father, said the event has come “full circle,” as the first one was also held on his son’s birthday. “It’s aligning perfectly for this one to be the last,” he told The Gloucester Daily Times earlier this week.

The family has accumulated roughly $500,000 in debt for their son’s medical care, John Frates said, and the final fundraiser will hopefully help close the gap.

The family will continue to raise money for the separate Peter Frates Family Foundation, which helps other ALS patients cover home health care costs, he said.

Pete Frates’s wife, Julie, said she’ll participate in the plunge for the first time.

She has raised nearly $300,000 and promises to jump into the winter waters of the North Atlantic wearing “Pete’s favorite red white and blue bikini that I wore when we met on the Fourth of July, eight years ago,” according to her Facebook fundraising page.

Organizers say nearly 300 people have signed up to take the actual plunge. That exceeds the peak of 250 participants the event saw in 2014, the year the ice bucket challenge went viral and raised more than $200 million for ALS research worldwide, they say.

The ice bucket challenge involved pouring a bucket of ice water over one’s head and posting a video of it on social media, and then challenging others to do the same or make a donation to charity. Most people did both.

The challenge began in 2014 when pro golfer Chris Kennedy challenged his wife’s cousin Jeanette Senerchia, whose husband has ALS. ALS patient Pat Quinn, of Yonkers, New York, picked up on it and started its spread, but when Frates and his family got involved, the phenomenon exploded on social media.

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that leads to paralysis because of the death of motor neurons in the spinal cord and brain. There is no known cure.