Lauren Hannani culture editor
A group of Service Learning students commuted to USC Exposition Park on Sunday, Oct. 15, to attend the annual Walk to Defeat ALS event. In doing so, they cheered on teams of people who were walking for a person affected by Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or who died because of it.
Service Learning first got involved with the event after a man named Scott Lew, who is diagnosed with ALS and uses a wheelchair, came to the school to talk to students about what it was like to live with the disease. Since then, substitute teacher Richard Kraft has worked with Service Learning to help them attend the ALS Association’s local walk.
“It was important for me to go because it was important for Mr. Kraft for us to go to the event to raise awareness for ALS although we are not personally affected,” junior Gaia Bar-Tal said. “By having more people go to these events, more people learn about it.”
Kraft feels very strongly about the cause because of his own personal experience of watching ALS affect his father.
“Fighting ALS is very personal to me since my father died from the disease in 2003,” Kraft said. “I’m happy that I’ve been able, through my own personal family experience, to help educate our students about ALS and get them involved in the fight.”
Along with Service Learning advisor Jamie Marrs, students stood on the sidelines to clap and cheer on the people participating in the walk. They even had the chance to see some people with the disease get help walking their last steps to the finish line.
“When I signed up to go for the walk, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Once I was there and saw all those people who showed up to support people with ALS and how they were helping people with ALS finish the walk. I was moved,” junior Abigail Tesfai said. “It’s hard to put into words what I saw. You really need to be there and see it happen for yourself.”
Watching the families react to the walk was also very powerful for the students to witness.
“It was very emotional, especially as their families were watching them try their best to stand up and walk,” Bar-Tal said. “The families were also very inspiring as they are going through hardships, but they still looked so strong and motivated.”
Although the students were only watching the groups walk to the finish line, Marrs believes that their support can go a long way.
“[The people with ALS] have gone on such a short walk since they can’t really go that far, but they can’t help but start cheering along [with the crowd], recognizing that they’re crossing the finish line and did this to raise money,” Marrs said. “It helps them know that there are people not affected by it who care, and so I think it just helps them feel less alone, which is important. It gives them a day to feel supported and special, and maybe that helps on other days when they might not.”
Kraft, who also attended the event, looks forward to continuing to support those affected by ALS and to fundraise for the cause until he achieves his goal.
“We will continue to raise money to fight ALS until there is a cure,” Kraft said.
Service Learning students hope to contribute to that plan by attending more of these kinds of events and spreading knowledge about the disease to others.
“From every walk like this that I’ve gone to, I always take away the understanding that there needs to be more knowledge and awareness about these illnesses, as they can affect anyone,” Bar-Tal said. “I’m very eager to help [Kraft] with any event, as it helps raise money and awareness.”
Kraft is very thankful for the students’ help in fighting for this cause and making a difference in the process.
“Beverly’s Service Learning students are the best. I’m so impressed by the constant work they do to give back,” Kraft said. “I think that learning to be a contributing member of one’s community is perhaps the greatest lesson for high school students, and I’m so proud when I see our students getting so involved and making a real difference.”