Mount Sinai elementary students are giving Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis sufferers more hope for a cure.
On Jan. 20, several Mount Sinai elementary students and faculty members were honored with a Silver Banner for their more than $1,000 donation to ALS research during a board of education meeting. Special guest Christopher Pendergast, an ALS sufferer and the founder of ALS Ride for Life, joined the students, their families, faculty and board members to present the banner in recognition of their effort.
Of the hundreds of schools that participated in the ALS Ride Across Long Island in May 2015, Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said Mount Sinai Elementary School was “one of the select groups to raise over $1,000 … the money raised by these students and staff and community helps provide hope and essential services.”
The students recycled water bottles to raise money last academic year when they were in fourth grade. The group was also part of the student council, which raises money for seven non-for-profits, including ALS Ride for Life. On behalf of the student council, the group also sold one-dollar paper baseballs, which they hung around the elementary school’s cafeteria.
“We’ve been raising money for Mr. Pendergast for over a decade … probably around 15 years,” fourth-grade teacher Kevin Walsh said.
In the past two years alone, Walsh’s students and two other fourth-grade classes have contributed around $2,000 to ALS research. According to student council advisors Mindy Sullivan and Marcella Walker, the council contributes $500 to ALS research annually. About two students from each fourth-grade class are on the council.
For 10-year-old Gabriella Amato, raising money for ALS was personal.
“My grandfather’s friend died because of ALS,” Gabriella said. “So that charity is really important to me.”
Fellow fifth-grader Zekey Huang was happy to help raise money for cause. He said his class collected around 200 bottles and visited other fourth-grade classes during lunchtime to add to the collection. While the 10-year-old enjoyed raising money with his classmates, he wants to see progress in ALS research.
“I hope there’s a cure at least … maybe in a year,” Zekey said.
Pendergast spoke about how raising funds for ALS research helps students learn how to overcome obstacles, persevere and make the world a better place. Pendergast grew up in and went to school in Mount Sinai. While the list of schools he personally visits gets shorter and shorter, Pendergast never fails to visit his hometown and school.
“We like to think that we do a very nice job teaching character education in our schools,” Mount Sinai Elementary School Principal John Gentilcore said during the meeting. “But when [Pendergast] comes to visit, it’s truly a lesson in grace and perseverance that our children learn from each and every year.”
Walsh’s students, alongside two other fourth-grade classes in the school, are currently collecting water bottles to continue raising money for the disease. For Pendergast, their persistence and effort to financially contribute to ALS research was worth highlighting.
“In a climate of negativity and cynicism, Mount Sinai’s schools’ compassion and commitment brilliantly shines as an example of education at its best,” Pendergast said. “The world will be a better place because of this school.”