The story of an uncle, taken from this life much too soon and its influence on his niece to inspire and educate others about ALS.
Have you had something in your life that you have felt passionate about? Something that you felt was so important that you wanted to share it with all your friends? Something you wanted to educate people on? École Marie-Anne-Gaboury’s student, Zola Dewar, had just that!
It was a beautiful sunny, summer morning when Zola came to visit us at the ALS Society of Manitoba – and she had BIG NEWS!
It all began when Zola’s father shared the story of her uncle Ken McDowell and his struggle with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Sadly, Ken passed away when Zola was quite young. The tale her father shared, however, struck a chord with her. When asked about it she said her reaction to the story was “that’s really important and a lot of people probably don’t know about the disease. So I wanted to make a fundraiser.”
So Zola got to work. To start building awareness about ALS, she put together a PowerPoint presentation for the teachers. The teachers were then able to share the presentation with their classes. In the presentation, Zola explained topics such as ‘What is ALS?’, ‘How does it happen?’, and ‘Why is it important to me?’.
The process of bringing the fundraiser together happened over the course of several years for Zola, as in-school classes had been cancelled during the pandemic. This made fundraising challenging. However, this year classes were finally back in person, there was a lot to do and a lot to organize. Along the way, she was assisted by her friend Merak and Grade Four teacher Madame Lapointe.
“that’s really important and a lot of people probably don’t know about this disease. So I wanted to make a fundraiser for ALS”
Finally, the time for the fundraiser had arrived! It was held during the school’s Spirit Week and consisted of various themes throughout the week. This particular week was only a four-day school week, so Zola would be hard-pressed to raise the funds, but all the classes in the school were on board.
The activities held during Spirit Week involved a Pyjama Day, an Inside Out Day and a 1980s Day. On the final day, all the students would wear red clothing and participate in a walk, replicating the Walk to End ALS recently held in Brandon and Winnipeg this June. The reward at the end? The class who raised the most money would have the opportunity to dunk their teacher with ice-cold water – like an Ice Bucket Challenge.
After a whirlwind week of activities, the end had arrived. So who would be the lucky recipients of quasi-sub-zero H2O? Well, it was a tie! Madame Olson and Madame Lapointe both received a chilling reminder as to how much they love their students. And Zola? In the end, with the help of all the students and teachers at École Marie-Anne-Gaboury – she raised just over $1200.
These greatly needed funds will go to providing client services to people living with ALS in Manitoba. It will go to helping them live a life, as brief as it may be, with dignity, caring and love. Way to go Zola! If you close your eyes and listen closely, you can hear each and every one of those people living with ALS saying thank you from the bottom of their hearts!
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