Behind the Ice Bucket Challenge

Marshfield author Casey Sherman and Milton author Dave Wedge teamed up to write the recently published book “The Ice Bucket Challenge: Pete Frates and the Fight Against ALS.”

By Rick Bach

“I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself.” – D.H. Lawrence

If you Google “Ice Bucket Challenge, Bill Gates,” you will find a video that has been viewed more than 24 million times. It shows one of the planet’s richest men completing the now world-famous challenge in a unique way. The social-media phenomenon, which raised more than 100 million dollars and has financed breakthrough findings that are bringing scientists closer than ever to a cure for ALS, started with a man named Pete Frates. His story is beautifully told by South Shore authors Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge in the newly released book, “The Ice Bucket Challenge: Pete Frates and the Fight Against ALS” (UPNE, September 2017).

Diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) at 27 years old, Frates was the man who inspired the now world-famous ice bucket challenge to defeat ALS, a campaign that encouraged people to dump a bucket of ice water on their head (while being filmed) to raise money for ALS research and increase awareness about the disease.

“The man upstairs has given me a plan,” Frates says in the book, describing his initial reaction to his diagnosis. “I knew my gifts were not being used when I was an insurance salesman. Once I was diagnosed, it clicked. This is my calling.”

Frates had been diagnosed with a debilitating disease that would wage a war on his body, stealing from him the tremendous physique of an incredible athlete, a baseball player talented enough to play at Boston College. Throughout the book, readers see that Frates’ body is only human, but his invincible optimism is what sticks with you. His indefatigable spirit resonates on every page.

“We love to tell great stories,” says Wedge. “We like to add a charitable component, and 50 percent of all the revenue from the sales will go to Pete.”

Casey Sherman remembers the words that inspired him to visit Frates initially. “You’ll meet one of the greatest families you’ll ever meet in your life, or you’ll find your next book project,” a friend told him. Those words convinced Sherman to travel to Beverly and meet the Frates family. “We found both,” says Sherman.

“The Ice Bucket Challenge” delves intimately into Frates’ life. This is not a cliché-filled general description of a man fighting a disease, but a detail-packed look at the integrity of an incredible soul. “This is a story about a man at war with his own body, but it’s as much about the people who loved him,” says Sherman. “Pete wanted the story to be as real as possible. He’s the face of A.L.S., now. Lou Gehrig suffered in silence. Pete wanted everybody to see how this incredibly in-shape, superhuman young man could dissolve from what he was into what he now is.”

“It has a lot of heart and drama,” says Wedge. “There’s so much inspiration and love.” The book also showcases the power of social media. “It was lightening in a bottle,” says Sherman describing the viral ice bucket challenge phenomenon. His favorite video showcases a handful of nuns in Dublin, Ireland, pouring ice water over their heads. “He drove it,” says Sherman of Frates, whom he describes as a social media dynamo even before his diagnosis. “We’ve never seen anything like it. Every genius idea comes from some sort of inspiration. This inspiration was to find a cure for this disease that there’s no cure for.”

Ultimately, Sherman and Wedge’s new book isn’t about a disease or even the search for a cure. It’s about a man who accomplished something enormous. “The night he was diagnosed, Frates went home and pounded his fist on the table and said, ‘There’s not going to be any crying,’” says Wedge. “He said: ‘We’re going to get this to Bill Gates.’ And he did.”

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