West Side News

Hayes teacher, students raise money to fight ALS

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Hayes Intermediate students were walking in circles Friday and they weren't just doing for their health.

They were walking for others' health.

The students on Sept. 27 were participating in a fundraising effort organized by Hayes fifth-grade teacher Eileen Elswick to benefit the Central Ohio ALS Association.

Elswick organized the effort in honor of her father, Justin Schlesinger, a Grove City resident who lost his battle to the disease in September 2012.

"My dad had a difficult time, but he put up a brave fight," Elswick said. "I made a promise to myself to continue to support the fight against ALS in his honor."

Last year, Elswick organized the first mini-walk at Hayes, which raised more than $750.

She also participated in the ALS Association's Walk to Defeat ALS on Sunday, Sept. 29 -- an annual event her father had hoped to participate in.

When she decided to organize another mini-walk at the school this year, Elswick said, she was touched by the response from students, especially sixth-graders who remembered last year's event.

"I had a lot of students come up and ask me if I was going to do it again," she said. "They wanted to help, some of them in honor of members of their own family who have ALS."

Students could donated a dollar to participate in "Slipper Day" on Sept. 27 at Hayes.

"If you donated a dollar, you got to come to school wearing your favorite pair of slippers," Elswick said.

This year, students donated $810, an increase of $80 over last year's total.

"There were many students who donated more than a dollar," Elswick said. "I'm just so gratified and proud of their support. It makes me feel so good."

The team of family, friends and supporters who joined her in the Sept. 29 Walk to Defeat ALS, named Freckle Fairies, raised another $2,355, for a total of $3,165 raised in just one month.

"One of my students, Ysabel Gomez, created her own ALS page in my dad's memory and raised $170 all by herself for our team," Elswick said. "I gave her a big hug (Monday morning) at school."

Along with raising funds, Elswick said she wants to raise awareness about ALS, which is better known as Lou Gehrig's disease. She sent a flier home with students telling about her father's story and the disease.

ALS is a disorder that affects the function of nerves and muscles. There is no cure or treatment. Once diagnosed, most people live three to five years.

"Researchers are getting closer to finding a cure or treatment," Elswick said. "Meanwhile, it's a terrible diseases that requires 24/7 care for the patient.

It costs an average of $200,000 a year to provide care to ALS patients, she said.

Elswick said she plans to make the mini-walk for ALS an annual event at Hayes.

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