Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, is a neurodegenerative disease that targets the brain and spinal cord. It weakens muscles, paralyzes patients, and eventually kills patients. Although the disease has been known about for years, there is no cure.
Eric Stevens, a Peninsula graduate, was diagnosed with ALS and given 2-5 years to live, exactly one month after he married his wife Amanda. After graduating, he went to UC Berkley, joined the NFL as a player for the St. Louis Rams, and eventually became a firefighter. After hearing Eric’s grave diagnosis, Eric and Amanda poured their lives into increasing awareness about ALS, and the treatments stuck in FDA trials.
Peninsula holds an annual Walk For Life fundraiser and has proudly raised money to donate to cancer support and research for over fifty years. But, we changed our cause this year to ALS in order to take advantage of this special opportunity to help the Stevenses.
We jumped into planning our event months in advance, gathering volunteers from around campus called Walk For Life Ambassadors. To get sponsorships, we had Ambassadors send letters to friends and family and walk around our community to ask small businesses to support us.
We advertised the event, creating ads for students to post on social media reminding others to turn in their pledge forms. A few weeks before the event, we held a school-wide assembly, where Amanda and Eric Stevens came to explain the change. As students were walking out of the assembly, we made sure to hand every single one a pledge form.
Service-Learning Leadership combines with our ASB (associated student body) class to plan WFL. Most of our class time leading up to the event was spent making a couple of hundred posters. In addition to the Ambassadors, SLL and ASB had their own committees. We were tasked with some of the more ‘inside jobs’ like taking part in the ceremony and welcoming the guests.
On the day of, we focused our attention on our football stadium and out-door amphitheater, plastering posters all over the walls, tying balloons, and setting up tables. At the carnival, clubs from around the campus sold food and drinks to fundraise for their respective groups.
The ceremony took place out in our football stadium. We had a few speakers, including a speech from Amanda Stevens, and read aloud names of people in our community who have been diagnosed with ALS. Each time a name was read, a sunflower was put into a vase.
By far the most anticipated parts of the whole event come at the end of the ceremony. First, we presented our check to Project ALS, the world's leading ALS research organization. This year’s total amount was $43,000, a five-year record!
Then, bags of powder were passed out to the student body and thrown into the air. This was followed by a two-mile walk to a nearby park.
Overall, the event was a huge success! We had an amazing time helping Amanda and Eric in their fight against ALS.