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Community Bands Together to ‘Strike Out ALS’

The ALS Ride for Life was held at PMHS last night.

Stella Rae Wilkins

Stella Rae Wilkins

Dr. Frank Verdone, husband of HS teacher, Mary Verdone, and author of Living (Not Dying) With ALS.

Matthew Correa, Patchogue-Medford High School

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On May 18th, 2017, Patchogue-Medford High School held its third annual ALS walk as part of the ALS Ride For Life. As described by alsrideforlife.org, the ALS Ride For Life is a patient-driven volunteer organization with a mission to serve the ALS community, raise public awareness, and raise money to someday find a cure. Chris Pendergast, 24-year ALS fighter, led the 20th Annual Ride For Life from Yankee Stadium to Washington, D.C. in his electric wheelchair. The walk was held as a private event on the school track to honor someone active in the community who was diagnosed with ALS.

This year’s walk at the high school was in honor of Dr. Frank Verdone, husband of Patchogue-Medford High School teacher, Mrs. Mary Verdone. According to Dr. Verdone’s GoFundMe, he was diagnosed with ALS in the spring of 2014. With this diagnosis, he has become an active part of the ALS Ride for Life program. Dr. Verdone has served Long Island for over 20 years as a highly respected and well-liked optometrist, and remains active in the optometry community even while living with ALS. Mrs. Verdone commented on the event, stating, “I simply would really like to thank all of my friends and all of the faculty and students for making my life much easier and more enjoyable.” Dr. Verdone has been participating in the ALS Ride For Life since 2015 and continues to be active in the fight against ALS. Recently, he published a book, Living (Not Dying) with ALS.

The walk started two years ago when Mrs. Sweda-Abrescia, Patchogue-Medford teacher and advisor for the National Honor Society, was looking for something to get involved with. “When I heard what the Verdones were going through, I decided I want to be a part of this.” Since then, an abundance of groups and clubs have become involved with the event. In addition to the National Honor Society, the National Business Honor Society, the softball team, Model U.N., and the South Ocean Middle School National Junior Honor Society were all involved with the event this year. The converging of these diverse groups just exhibits once more the immense unity and strength that exists in the Patchogue-Medford community, as well as the connection that occurs any time someone is in need.

The turnout was high, the money raised was higher, but the highest thing here was the spirits.”

— Mike Corso, President of National Honor Society

It comes as no surprise that the event was extremely successful. Several hundred people attended the walk, and smiles were visible everywhere you looked. Dr. Verdone and Chris Pendergast were both in attendance to witness the incredible turnout and to see the amount of people who supported them. The Patchogue-Medford High School presented the ALS Ride For Life organization with a check for $8000 to continue the fight for a cure. When asked what he thought about the event, Rylan Jugan, a 10th grader at the high school, stated, “This is a truly inspirational event that displayed the community’s capacity to come together for a great cause that has made significant strides in finding a cure for ALS.” Judging by the laughter and smiles, the event’s games, refreshments, and music left everyone having a good time. Mike Corso, President of the National Honor Society, put it simply: “The turnout was high, the money raised was higher, but the highest thing here was the spirits.” The event was a success in every aspect, and proved that the Patchogue-Medford community is second to none when it comes to unifying for a common cause.

The overall intensity of how involved the community became when someone was in need displays an incredible force of unity and a desire to make life easier for someone in need. Patchogue-Medford High School came together to bring relief and support to Dr. Verdone and his family as they continue with their journey against ALS. Money was raised and smiles shone as the high school bonded together to help an active member of the community as best they could.

At Thursday’s event, the high school hoped to raise awareness as well as money for ALS research. Funds were raised by selling refreshments, balloon animals, and face-painting, as well as from sponsor money donated by people who wanted to walk. According to Mrs. Sweda-Abrescia, all of the money that was raised is going to be given straight to the ALS Ride For Life, who will then give all of that money to ALS research. In addition to the funds raised at the event on Thursday night, the teachers held a breakfast in the morning to raise extra funds for the cause. When asked about the extra fundraising efforts, teacher, Mrs. Kathleen Soricelli commented, “I think it’s really great. It’s showing all of the support in trying to help find a cure for ALS and it brings the staff together.” Applebee’s also hosted a Dining to Donate event on Wednesday, May 17th, to help ALS research. At this event, if someone were to bring a flyer with them and present it to the waiter or waitress, 10% of their bill would be donated to ALS Ride For Life.

ALS is a serious disease that presents a truly difficult challenge to those who are diagnosed. However, Patchogue-Medford is not a community that will let someone fight their battle alone. This community is one of unity, strength, and heart, willing to be by the side of anyone in need. This event is a prime example of the sheer power the people of Patchogue-Medford High School possess. When a cure for ALS is found, the Patchogue-Medford community and their efforts to put an end to this terrible disease will be considered a large reason people no longer have to suffer.

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