US athlete who inspired 'ice bucket challenge' dies at 34

Host of celebrities, high-profile personalities and entire sports teams took part in challenge

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 08, 2014 Pete Frates attends the Sportsman Of The Year 2014 Ceremony on December 9, 2014 in New York City.    Pete Frates, the man who inspired the viral #IceBucketChallenge that raised millions of dollars for ALS research, has died at age 34, his family says in a statement released by Boston Collegeon December 09, 2019. / AFP / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Michael loccisano

A former US college baseball player who helped to inspire the global online "ice bucket challenge" to tackle a deadly neurodegenerative disease has died at the age of 34, his family said on Monday.

A one-time college athlete from the Boston area, Pete Frates' struggle with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, was one of the inspirations behind the ice bucket challenge, which took social media by storm in 2014.

Millions took up the challenge, which involved dousing themselves with a bucket of ice cold water and posting the video online, before making a donation to medical research and daring others to do the same.

A host of celebrities, high-profile personalities and entire sports teams took part in the challenge, including Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg, Bill Gates and even former US president George W Bush.

The campaign has raised more than $200 million (Dh734m) to fund research into ALS.

The disease causes sufferers' bodies to slowly shut down as their nervous system degenerates.

The condition, officially known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, was called Lou Gehrig's disease after another baseball player who died of it in 1941.

"Pete passed away surrounded by his loving family, peacefully at age 34, after a heroic battle with ALS," his family said.

"Remarkably, Pete never complained about his illness. Instead, he saw it as an opportunity to give hope to other patients and their families."

Frates's friend Corey Griffin, 27, a philanthropist who was instrumental in helping the fund-raising campaign to go viral, died in a swimming accident shortly after it took off.