Ice Bucket Challenge co-founder Pat Quinn dies at 37 after battle with ALS
Pat Quinn, a motivational speaker and co-founder of the Ice Bucket Challenge, passed away on Sunday morning at the age of 37 following a seven-year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Quinn is one of the co-creators of the ice bucket video challenge, which first took social media by storm in summer 2014.
While it was a viral sensation then, Quinn remained committed to the fight against ALS, starting the Quinn for the Win foundation.
"He was able to find a positive in almost every situation," close friend and Iona College rugby coach Bruce McLane said. "He always had the right words when you were down, and he was very compassionate, even though he was suffering tremendously."
Since the ice bucket challenge's inception, it has raised over $250 million worldwide.
Although Quinn was mostly known for his advocacy for ALS awareness, he also gave talks at schools and events in Westchester County, as well as across the country.
An avid sports fan, Quinn's foundation donned the colors of one of his favorite teams, the North Carolina Tar Heels. He also loved the Yankees.
Quinn used his love for sports as a platform to connect and pass on his wisdom to the younger generation.
"His message was very important for the younger kids," said Woodlands High School football coach Anthony Fava, who grew up and remained close friends with Quinn. "Sometimes, you take life for granted and you don't know what's coming tomorrow. He's living proof of it. One day he's a 30-year-old, and we're playing men's league basketball in Tarrytown, then a few months later he's diagnosed with a terminal illness.
"If there's anyone that can speak to taking every day like it's your last, it's him. He lived every damn day with that disease to the absolute fullest and put others in front of his own."
While the Ice Bucket Challenge isn't as prevalent as it once was, Fava and his Woodlands team have made it an annual tradition with the Quinn for the Win foundation.
"We're gonna keep doing it," he said. "The mantra was every August until the cure, and I don't see a cure, so we're gonna keep doing it every August for him."
Quinn was first diagnosed with ALS back in 2013.
The disease, often called Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control. There is no cure for the fatal disease.
"His legacy will be the Ice Bucket Challenge obviously, but, for me, he was just a great, great friend," said Seamus Keane, a Pearl River native and former college teammate. "He got dealt a terrible hand. He did his best. I wouldn't have been able to deal with it the way he did, and he did the most out of anybody for that Lou Gehrig's disease — put a shine on it, made friends and really connected."
Keane believes that most of Quinn's optimism and support came from his large family. Quinn came from an extensive family with a wide-ranging network of uncles, aunts and cousins, as well as the presence of his parents, Pat and Rosemary, and his brother, Daniel.
"That's how he stayed positive. He had a phenomenal family on both sides," Keane said. "That was obvious from the beginning, since I first met him, and when he got sick, you could tell he had a phenomenal family. These weren't depressing, downtrodden fundraising events. They were full of his family, cousins, uncles, aunts, everybody's laughing, having a bite to eat, having a drink. We're doing this. We're doing that.
"That's how he was able to stay comfortable and be who he was."
While Quinn exuded toughness and, at times, stubbornness, his friends describe him as a gentle person who was dedicated to his family.
Quinn grew up in Yonkers and attended Iona Prep. Afterwards, he graduated in 2006 from Iona College, where he played rugby.
The school inducted him into its rugby hall of fame and awarded him with the first-ever Pat Quinn Courage Award in 2019.
It even dedicated the southwest corner of Mazzella Field as "Pat Quinn Corner."
A plaque by the spot bears a quote from Quinn.
"Every day I fight," it reads. "There are two ways to look at adversity. You can take the easy way out and accept it, or you can take the road with real value. You can fight like hell to make a difference. The impossible is only impossible if you allow it to be. Fight the good fight, and you can move the world."
Follow Eugene Rapay on Twitter at @erapay5.