For the past three years, the Marion Street Elementary School community has opened their hearts to helping find a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The school has partnered with ALS Ride for Life founder Chris Pendergast, who has been battling the disease since 1993. Mr. Pendergast visited Marion Street students on Dec. 10 with his caretaker Tiana Quintero and Ride for Life Board Member and volunteer Richard Iannuzzi, to educate students on ALS and share his inspiring story and mission.
The Ride for Life organization is a charity that serves the ALS community to raise research funds, support patients and families, raise awareness and provide ALS news and updates. Through two engaging presentations, Mr. Iannuzzi, who was also an educator for 34 years, spoke to students from grades 1-5 about what ALS is and how it affects the body, making muscles weak. He reinforced to the classes that it is a rare disease and that children do not get ALS. Unable to easily speak due to his disease, Mr. Pendergast chimed in during the presentations with a computer and had Quintero help share his thoughts. Students learned more about Mr. Pendergast’s life, including how he uses his wheelchair and that he used to be a teacher.
The students were encouraged to answer questions with many showing their knowledge of ALS. Mr. Iannuzzi discussed famed baseball player Lou Gehrig who had ALS and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge which supported ALS research. He explained that right now there is no medicine or cure for the disease. Students learned that Mr. Pendergast wanted to ride his wheelchair across Long Island to educate the public and raise awareness. To showcase how his vision came to life, Mr. Iannuzzi presented a video about Ride for Life. The students watched in excitement as photos and clips of Pendergast and members of the Ride for Life crew were shown visiting different places, including Marion Street School. The inspiring video showcased the fight against ALS and the hope in finding a cure, to reinforce to students that they can make a difference. Showing his optimistic spirit, Mr. Pendergast, with the help of Ms. Quintero, left the students with hope.
“I hope you learned the most important lesson,” he told students. “Don't give up. Don’t let a problem make you quit.”