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Pat Quinn, co-founder of viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, dies at 37

Mr. Quinn, in a 2019 photo provided by The ALS Association.
Mr. Quinn, in a 2019 photo provided by The ALS Association.Scott Kauffman/Associated Press

Pat Quinn, who helped raise $220 million to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, by promoting the Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014, died Sunday, seven years after he learned he had the disease. He was 37.

His death, at St. John’s Riverside Hospital in Yonkers was confirmed by the ALS Association and in a post on his official Facebook page.

Mr. Quinn did not create the challenge, in which people dumped buckets of ice water on their heads while pledging to donate money to fight ALS. But he and his friend Pete Frates, who also had ALS, are credited with amplifying it and helping to make it a sensation in the summer and fall of 2014, raising tens of millions of dollars for research and, perhaps nearly as important, wider awareness of the disease.

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“Pat changed the trajectory of the fight against ALS forever,” Calaneet Balas, the chief executive of the ALS Association, said in a statement Sunday. “He inspired millions to get involved and care about people who are living with ALS.”

ALS, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that attacks the nerve cells that control voluntary muscle movements and leads to full paralysis. People with the disease typically live three to five years from the time of diagnosis, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Shortly after Mr. Quinn learned he had ALS in 2013, he created Quinn for the Win, a Facebook group, to raise awareness of the disease and to raise money to fight for a cure. Frates, a former Boston College baseball star, created his own page, Team Frate Train, with the same goal.

In July 2014, Mr. Quinn and Frates saw another ALS patient, Anthony Senerchia, do the Ice Bucket Challenge online. They created their own ice-bucket videos and shared the challenge with their followers.

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From there, the campaign spread wildly, with Lady Gaga, Oprah Winfrey, LeBron James, and scores of other celebrities participating and donating to the cause. The challenge raised $115 million for the ALS Association and $220 million around the world for ALS research, the ALS Association said.

Mr. Quinn’s efforts “dramatically accelerated the effort to end ALS, leading to new research discoveries, expanded care for people living with ALS, and greater investment by the government in ALS research,” Balas said.

Mr. Quinn and Frates became friends online and when Mr. Quinn would come to Boston for treatment, he would visit Frates, who died last December at the age of 34.

In a 2015 interview for Talks at Google in Manhattan, Mr. Quinn was asked if he had a favorite celebrity Ice Bucket Challenge video. He noted that James, Bill Gates and Leonardo DiCaprio had each done one but declined to single one out.

“It’s not worth getting picky,” he said, “because every challenge, no matter how big or small, was doing what we originally set out to do, which was create awareness, and the money coming in was just completely unexpected.”

Patrick Ryan Quinn was born Feb. 10, 1983, in Yonkers to Rosemary Quinn and Patrick Quinn Sr. He attended Iona College in New Rochelle, where he was on the rugby team.

He received his ALS diagnosis in March 2013, a month after his 30th birthday, according to the ALS Association.

In addition to his parents, he leaves his brothers, Dan and Scott, according to the association. His marriage to Jennifer Flynn ended in divorce.

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After the challenge, Mr. Quinn continued to speak out about the fight for a cure and conducted the challenge every August in his hometown in an event called “Every August Until the Cure.”

Speaking to an audience in Boston last year for the fifth anniversary of the challenge, Mr. Quinn said the campaign “connected with a sweet left hook to the jaw of ALS and shook the disease up, but by no means is this fight over.”

New York Times