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Pete's Plunge

On a very sunny but very cold day in January of this year, my husband Jim, along with over 500 local people, took the plunge into the ocean in Gloucester. I watched from the sidelines. I don't think a day like that one has impacted me quite as much for a very long time.  I was torn between great joy and tremendous sadness. Two colliding, deep emotions. Great joy to see so many people, of all ages, pull together for one absolutely fantastic family and then great sadness for the reason we were all here in the freezing cold. ALS,commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease, has hit that fantastic family very hard. Does the name Pete Frates mean anything to you. Well it should...Think Ice Bucket Challenge. What I think now, after that day in January, is that I have never meet a young man with a brighter smile, a more giving heart and a passion for helping to end a devastating and debilitating disease.  He has done it all with grace, knowing that for himself the cure might not be found but going forward, through the efforts he puts out, and with the help of his amazing family, he will save countless others from the pain and suffering an entire family endures when one of their own is diagnosed with ALS.  That day we not only were part of the plunge, we also helped Pete celebrate his 30th birthday.


Some came dressed in crazy costumes and yes, they plunged in them...

And some came dressed barely at all...the atmosphere at the beach was lively and so much anticipation was in the air as they waited to line up for the run. It warmed my heart to see the people cheering each other on, and emptying out there pockets for this great cause...families supporting help a family that so needed support of all kinds..and everyone that was there was happy to be doing what they were doing for the Frates...and when Pete arrived it was game on..

There were off and running and I'm sure that the water was warmer than the air...I had a lump the size of a bolder in my throat watching them go in that water and knowing why they were doing it.  I sank in the mud as I moved around and through people to try and capture a moment in time that is like a small miracle...It is hard to get a sharp focused photo when your eyes are trying to hold back tears..but like those runners who gave of themselves...the only thing I could do was keep hitting the shutter button..

I had heard of Pete Frates many times but I must say I did not really understand his plight, the plight of his family and friends until that day..until I stood in the sand and had the wind whipping at my back...not until I saw a young man and his wife cross over a little wooden bridge..him in a big powered wheelchair, her right beside him, both with smiles...and as I watched all of heart swelled both with the joy of it and with the sadness and with the full knowledge, finally, of what it took to get Pete there and to know it was exactly where he wanted to be..

The plunge didn't last very long...amongst the hooting and shooting and running...the beach emptied out quickly...but they got the job done. As a thank you to all who participated we were invited to an after plunge lunch and birthday party for Pete. That is where the magic really happened for me.


Meet Pete and his wife Julie...they are a team, actually they are THE TEAM.  Young, in love and carrying on this cause together..I can't even begin to understand the challenges that they go through each day but I can feel that they are connected on a very deep level and both are very committed to the project of stamping out ALS.

Now enter my wonderful and loving friends, Pattie and Scott Burnham...It would be so difficult for me to tell you just how wonderful and devoted both of them are to helping others in this short space but they also dedicate their lives to helping anyone in need...I work with Pattie at church and well, Scott humors us and comes along sometimes...and it's always good to be in their company. For the purposes here though, I would publicly like to thank them, especially Pattie, when three years ago..on another very cold day in Janurary, she said to Scott, how would like to go for a swim in Good Harbor  beach to help out Pete and Julie...and the rest my friends, as they say, is history.  Three years later...they had over a 500 people join them in the swim...they organize and recruit and although we have always supported the Burnhams financially in this endeavor, we now would support them in any way we can...because we now know and understand the importance of this quest that Pete and his family are working so hard for.  To see them and experience first hand the warmth and love that was there on that very cold January day, to feel it deep in your heart and soul you now have to be part of it...You can't walk away and's not my problem because it's all of our problems...And that day, we met another very young man and his wife and two small children...he to, was just recently diagnosed with ALS...and he went to Pete and touched his hand and a look passed between them and a few tears...and I knew that this was worth fighting for...

So next year, Jim will leave the Burnham team and start his own family and friends will be there to Plunge and i'll be there in whatever capacity Pattie finds for me. I'm in for as long as I'm needed...It was a day that changed us, Jim and I.  It was a day that my daughter and Liam hopefully found a deeper meaning in life and it was a day of coming together in both beauty and and light...We are now part of the Frate Train..and it feels so right.



Just recently Pete was awarded the honor of Communicator of the Year 2015. A video is also included about his time under the ice bucket...just and amazing man.. 

Click on the link below to view the video.

Pete Frates named Communicator 2014









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Reader Comments (17)

Cheryl, Just as you were trying to take pictures through tears, I sit here now trying to type through tears. Your heartfelt description of this event, this young couple and the goodness of so many people trying to help is the best news I've read in long while.

March 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

My tears are already frozen on my face.
Blessings to you for your huge heart in making a difference in this world.
Ever so much love,
Antoinette xox

March 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAntoinette

I think you focused just fine on your photos and on the meaning of caring and loving for others.

March 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

This, hopefully, will be published in a local area paper or publication! Beautiful. Unmistakable, heartfelt dedication to a wonderful and worthy cause!

March 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBeverly

Thank you was a very special day...took me awhile to be able to write about it...your comment means a lot to me...xoox

March 27, 2015 | Registered CommenterCheryl Crotty

Antoinette...thank you so much for this lovely comment...Pete and Julie and all who help them are the hero's of this post...I'm just along to do whatever I can...even if it's only spreading the word about how important this cause is...xxox

March 27, 2015 | Registered CommenterCheryl Crotty

Thank you Carol...your comment is so appreciate...

March 27, 2015 | Registered CommenterCheryl Crotty

Beverly thank you...It's an important cause for sure...someday this young man will have made a difference in the condition...he's well on his way...if you didn't view the should...just to see how positive and unselfish he is...and also his family...just a moving day.xoxo

March 27, 2015 | Registered CommenterCheryl Crotty

What a day. It makes you appreciate every blessing you have.

March 28, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterpam (sidewalk shoes)

This really touched me. Thanks for sharing.

March 29, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterdiana foster

Thank you Pam for your visit and you are so right...I think of Pete every time I start to complain about something...and then I stop...xoxo

March 29, 2015 | Unregistered Commentercheryl c.

Thank you Diane...your visit are always so happy you stopped by.

March 29, 2015 | Unregistered Commentercheryl c.

Cheryl tears in my eyes here. What remarkable people I can feel the love and support here.

March 30, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterViv Halliwell

Yes Viv...they are strong...way stronger than I think I could ever be...

March 30, 2015 | Registered CommenterCheryl Crotty

A most beautiful dedication and some very amazing people in this story, Cheryl. I agree with Beverly, this story should definitely be in the news.

April 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

Wonderful, wonderful post Cheryl. Obviously I have seen clips of this plunge on the news! A wonderful cause!

April 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLiz Thomas

Awemazing and Inspiring story of strength....makes me wish all humans would band together and save the world like that. They say the biggest mistake photographers make is not connecting with their subject, I say you connected on so many levels and made your viewers really feel through every picture and word. Bravo and congrats, this is one of your very best! Next time I think you should take the plunge, I'd love to see that! We have polar plunges here as well, you can always come and practise I'll take the photos, you write, I suck at that :)

April 14, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMarilyn

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