EC OBSERVER - SPORTS EDITOR
Prior to March 2012, Pete Frates was known as a former captain of the BC baseball team that went on to play professionally in Europe. Now, he is a household name not because of his baseball skills, but because of his never ending fight, determination, and spirit to inspire others.
According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) website, “The NCAA Inspiration award is presented to an NCAA coach or administrator currently associated with intercollegiate athletics, or a current or former varsity letter-winner at an NCAA institution who, when confronted with a life altering situation used perseverance, dedication and determination to overcome the event and most importantly, now serves as a role model to give hope and inspiration to others in similar situations.”
Diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2012, Pete decided he wanted to face this disease head on and change the course of ALS by how it’s perceived. He wanted to do exactly what this award entails, he wanted to inspire others.
“We had never heard of ALS until Pete was diagnosed and that’s what drove us,” said Pete’s mother and Endicott trustee Nancy Frates. “He said that we are going to get to work, we are going to change the trajectory of the disease. We are going to document this journey. People need to see what happens to an ALS patient.”
This was all started shortly after Pete was diagnosed with ALS. The family first assessed the situation of ALS and analyzed the problems. Everything came down to money because of people’s unfamiliarity with ALS.
“We used to talk about how we need people to open up their hearts to our story, then we hope they open their minds and educate themselves to the disease, and then hopefully they’ll open their wallets,” Mrs. Frates said.
The family knew their path to this was awareness, so in Boston they started to work what they called the “circles of Pete”. This included the people that he worked with, went to school with, and others, that eventually transpired into TeamFrateTrain Facebook page with about 3,500 followers. The family also sold gear, hosted a Polar Plunge, Pints for Pete, and Pete would go to his alma mater BC for games. Additionally, Red Sox also recognized him prior to the Ice Bucket Challenge which changed the course of ALS awareness around the globe forever.
The real statement on the awareness they were gaining was made at the first ALS Awareness Game at BC which 2,500 fans attended. “They are lucky to get 25 people to a baseball game in March because it’s cold, so that was a real statement, people came up to us and said ‘‘we are with you let’s do this’’,” Mrs. Frates said.
In the two years before the Ice Bucket challenge became a nationwide campaign, both Mrs. Frates and her husband quit their jobs, and their two other children moved closer to home. The family was working day and night on all facets of ALS awareness, raising money for both taking care of Pete and other organizations.
The family also became well known in the ALS community. Pete and his mother testified in front of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), lobbied to congress on Capitol Hill and met with many of the stakeholders in the ALS community.
“We had the whole ALS community who knew us, so when the Ice Bucket Challenge came along we were at the precipice, we were waiting, and like Pete said all we were waiting for was a vehicle, he knew he was waiting for the vehicle and Pat Quinn calling him up that day and saying I think I got it, was it-he knew it as soon as he saw it,” Mrs. Frates said.
The Ice Bucket Challenge raised 115 million dollars in the United States, and 220 million dollars worldwide. It also gave ALS the awareness it desperately needed nationally and worldwide.
Two years after the Ice Bucket Challenge spread across the country, Pete was given the recognition for his endless work inspiring others with the NCAA Inspiration award, which he was nominated for by BC. His family found out in the summer that he won the award. In the fall he received a letter from NCAA’s Commissioner Mark Emmert but his family kept it quiet and waited for the official press release.
His family was told early because they wanted to try and set up travel arrangements for Pete to get down to Nashville, Tenn. to receive the award, but unfortunately Pete had a bad year medically and traveling to Nashville just was not possible.
“Being a mom I was talking to the travel people and told them this award, was an award I believe the award that Pete holds the highest, besides the residence hall, anything that has to do with college athletes, and college students is in his soul and who he is. I asked if someone could get the award on the plane and bring it to us,” Mrs. Frates said.
Mrs. Frates received a call back about three hours later and everyone was very keen on the idea of bringing the award to Pete in Beverly. A week later, she received another call saying the award was definitely going to come to the small North Shore town.
On Dec. 13, 2016 commissioner Emmert flew in from Indianapolis to present the award to Pete in front of his whole family and friends. In January 2017, Pete’s father and brother went and officially received the recognition at the ceremony in Nashville.
Pete’s goal was not to win awards but to use his communications degree and skills to change the path of ALS, raise awareness, and inspire others. He continues to inspire not only the ALS community, but the whole world with his story and his fight to bring awareness to this disease.