Brenda Mehdian, staff writer
Service Learning teamed up with the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association on Sunday, Oct. 20, at Exhibition Park and took part in the annual ALS Walk to help raise money and awareness for the disease.
ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The motor neurons that attach the brain to the spinal cord and muscles degenerate progressively and eventually lead to one’s death. According to the ALS Association, 30,000 people can be living with the disease at any given time and about 60 percent of those people are men. One such victim was the father of substitute teacher Richard Kraft.
“My father’s diagnosis was a huge shock to our family. It was hard to believe that someone as strong and vibrant as my dad, who had hardly been sick a day in his life, was now facing an illness for which there was no treatment or cure,” Kraft said
Kraft worked alongside the Service Learning students to help coordinate the event. The two-mile walk was not scheduled to begin until a little after 11:00 a.m. Participants were asked to arrive at 9:00 a.m. for check in, where a complimentary breakfast was served.
Junior Service Learning member Julia Shabanian and senior Service Learning member Pearl Koven began planning this event in early August and made a timeline sequencing when to start publicizing, fundraising, planning the assembly, etc.
“This process was very helpful in planning the walk. By laying everything out and seeing what needed to be done, we were able to organize how we would plan this event in the most effective way possible,” senior Service Learning member Simon Hedvat said.
This walk took place last year and was the first time Service Learning had linked itself to the ALS Association. According to Hedvat, the event resembled that of last year except for the amount of student participation.
To help fundraise, Service Learning asked each period six class for donations and in return, promised a pizza party for whichever class donated the most money. In addition, Service Learning held an assembly at which they discussed the disease, showed a documentary and had an appearance from ALS survivor, Scott Lew, in an effort to spread awareness. Although Lew was unable to speak due to the disease, his wife was able to answer questions about ALS and the impact it had on the couple’s life.
“The assembly was necessary for informing our student body and staff on what ALS is. Service Learning, along with Kraft, really wanted to bring light to the disease by showing the documentary ‘Jujitsuing Reality’, which explains whom ALS affects and how,” Koven said.
Service Learning also fundraised through the ALS website on the school’s team page. By the end of the walk the students on campus had raised about $2,800 for the cause, which was $200 short of the $3,000 goal. However, students were able to continue donating throughout the week following the walk.
“I think it is important for the community to fundraise for this cause because it is not as well known as some other diseases, yet there are so many people impacted by it every day,” Hedvat said.
To continue spreading the word about ALS, Service Learning plans to participate in the walk next year and hopes that they will be able to raise more money and have more participation from the student body and faculty.