Nov. 12, 2014
By Sean Tenaglia (’16)
You would be hard-pressed to find someone who has not heard about the Ice Bucket Challenge by now. The viral sensation swept across social media this summer, raising over $115 million and immeasurable awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research.
Irish baseball head coach Mik Aoki is all too familiar with the social media campaign. It began with one of his former players, Pete Frates, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2012.
Before arriving at Notre Dame, Aoki coached Frates from 2004 through 2007 at Boston College. The two remained close over the years, and grew even closer after Pete’s diagnosis. Over the past two years, the Irish have hosted several “Strike Out ALS” games to raise money and awareness of the disease in the local community.
The Ice Bucket Challenge had its humble beginning with Pete Frates’ bold vision to raise awareness for ALS. Thousands of videos and millions of dollars later, Frates’ vision has come to fruition, and then some. Before he knew it, public figures from Bill Gates to LeBron James were taking part in the movement. Aoki also joined in the fun and expressed his absolute astonishment at the success of the campaign.
“It is just an unbelievable thing that people pouring a bucket of ice water on their heads could make such a difference,” Aoki says. “It is without any question the best thing that can come from social media. There is so much that you read about online that is negative, but this is where social media is so important. You could not have done this at any other period in history. It was just awesome.”
Frates’ story has touched millions of lives around the world. In September, ESPN aired a “SportsCenter Featured” segment on his battle with ALS. Before Game 2 of the World Series in Kansas City, MLB commissioner Bud Selig honored Frates and presented his family with an engraved silver ice bucket.
Aoki acknowledges that Frates faces a tough road ahead of him as the disease continues to take hold of his body, but he knows that his former player has left an incredible legacy.
“For a disease that has been so underserved, for Pete to touch this thing off is just unbelievable,” Aoki says.
“He’s in a tough place, but that kid made his mark. He made his mark. I’m so proud of him and excited that I’ve had some small part in his life because he’s a phenomenal kid.”
The Irish will honor Frates this spring with another “Strike Out ALS” weekend. For more information on his ongoing battle with the disease, please check out http://petefrates.com.
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