WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, Manhattan (PIX11) – A Washington Heights school has raised more than $100,000 dollars for ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the neurological disorder also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
About 200 students from The Community Health Academy of the Heights, led by an NYPD escort, marched in the streets around upper Manhattan to raise awareness about the disease. The middle and high school students chanted, “Strike out ALS!” in hopes of a cure being found.
The march is part of ALS Ride for Life, an organization dedicated to finding a cure and spreading awareness. This year marks its 25th anniversary.
The “ride” starts out east at Long Island schools and over the course of two weeks, works its way into Manhattan, ending at the Washington Heights school. The students at CHAH raised more than $14,000 this year, which brings their total amount of donations to over $100,000 since 2011.
Jean Ellen Murphy is an English teacher at the school who brought the fundraising efforts there.
“It’s penny by penny,” Murphy said. “Students [are] just asking people for money— a dollar at a time, a quarter here and there. Some of them are out selling ice pops for a dollar to raise money for a cure.”
Murphy’s mother passed away from the rare neurological disorder.
ALS Ride for Life was founded by Christopher Pendergast, a Long Island teacher who lived with ALS for 28 years. His wife Christine participated in the march.
“It’s very difficult to be here without Chris, but he worked so hard at creating what has become a legacy— a legacy of teaching students about meeting the challenges of life regardless of what they are,” Christine said.
Leading the pack was Paul Weisman, who educates students about the disease. He was diagnosed with ALS almost 10 years ago.
Former students Zaquan Brewington and Oscar Fernandez participated in the school’s first fundraising efforts when they were 12 years old. They’re now 23 and return annually.
Brewington shared the impact they hope this ride has.
“That enough people have knowledge about this disease and work blood, sweat, and tears to find a cure,” Brewington said.
There will be another type of ALS Ride for Life in October and it’s a bike trek starting in Brooklyn and ending in Montauk. If you’re up for the ride, go to the organization’s website here.