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Former Boston College outfielder Pete Frates was an inspiration to all

Dozens packed the Frates home as NCAA President Mark Emmert presented the 2017 Inspiration Award to Pete Frates. MONICA MILLER / NCAA

Pete Frates, the recipient of the 2017 NCAA Inspiration Award who died Dec. 9 at age 34, inspired millions to join his fight against the disease that would take his life.

In July 2014, two years after Frates was diagnosed with ALS, he popularized the Ice Bucket Challenge with a video that went viral: He bobbed his head to Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” and called on others to commit to a dousing with a bucket of ice water and a pledge to the ALS Association. (“Ice water and ALS are a bad mix,” Frates’ video caption explains.)

Celebrities ranging from Bill Gates to Oprah Winfrey completed the challenge. By September, the ALS Association reported it had raised over $100 million to fight the progressive nervous system illness, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, that causes a loss of muscle control. Continued support in subsequent years suggests Frates’ work might have inspired donations of up to $220 million.

That work led the NCAA to present the Inspiration Award to the former Boston College outfielder, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications. The award is given to a coach, administrator, or current or former student-athlete who serves as a role model and offers hope and inspiration to others confronting a life-altering situation. It is typically presented at the NCAA Convention in January. But by the time of Frates’ honor — nearly five years after his diagnosis — he was unable to travel. NCAA President Mark Emmert was invited to the Frates family home in Beverly, Massachusetts, for the presentation.

When Emmert and other national office staff members arrived Dec. 16, 2016, the home was filled with media representatives, camera crews and the entire Boston College baseball team, including coaches and other athletics staff who wanted to witness the award presentation.

“Every inch of space upstairs and on the main level of the house was occupied,” says Monica Miller, NCAA associate director of communications for stakeholder engagement. “As we navigated through a narrow path in the crowded room to the back wall of their living room, the magnitude of this iconic moment set in.”

Frates entered the living room in his motorized wheelchair flanked by his wife, Julie, and young daughter, Lucy.

After the award presentation, well-wishers took turns congratulating Frates. The Boston College baseball team chatted him up and posed for a photo.

“The fact that you’ve touched all of these lives so much that they wanted to be here at this moment is pretty impressive. This is an incredible crowd,” Emmert said when presenting the award. “What you’ve been able to do to inspire so many people to support this cause is monumental. It is, in fact, an inspiration.”

More Acts of Kindness

Fighting Hunger

In the fall, more than 350 University of Wisconsin-River Falls student-athletes from all sports collected 2,221 pounds of food for their Trick or Treat Canned Goods program — an annual effort to fight food insecurity in the River Falls community. Student-athletes collected door-to-door donations, held drives at home athletics events and then delivered the donated items to the River Falls Food Pantry.

A Helping Hand

The St. Cloud State women’s ice hockey team helped at a Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity project in October. Student-athletes assisted a Habitat crew by setting up scaffolding at a work site in St. Cloud.

A New Teammate

In October, the Susquehanna women’s volleyball team held an adoption ceremony to officially welcome the team’s newest member, 7-year-old Bromwyn Keener. Bromwyn and the River Hawks were paired up through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, an organization aimed at improving the quality of life for children battling pediatric brain tumors and other childhood cancers.

In Remembrance

Simon Fraser student-athletes held their inaugural Brandon Bassi Beach Cleanup in September in remembrance of the late Brandon Bassi, a 19-year-old Simon Fraser men’s soccer player who died in a traffic crash in May. Student-athletes gathered at Kitsilano Beach to pick up garbage and share stories about Bassi.

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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