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Pelham school fundraiser 'remembers those who forget'

Union Leader Correspondent

December 26. 2013 12:29AM
Teacher Kim Michel and seventh-graders Kelly McKermott, Sophia Lupoli and Kylee Jedraszek sold candy canes in the foyer at St. Patrick School last week to raise funds for the Alzheimer's Association in memory of Jedraszek's grandfather, who recently lost his battle with the illness. (COURTESY)

PELHAM — Seventh-graders at St. Patrick School are doing their part to help battle Alzheimer's disease.

This fall, when teacher Lynne Stader approached her students to see if they had any idea what charity they'd like to "adopt" for the holidays, many were moved by student Kylee Jedraszek's story.

Jedraszek's grandfather had recently died following a long, difficult battle with Alzheimer's disease.

"Let's help research a cure for this disease that affects too many," Jedraszek told her classmates, who agreed to raise funds for the Alzheimer's Association over the past several months. Stader said she encourages her students to help others not only during the holiday but also throughout the entire school year.

As a classroom project, each student is asked to research nonprofit organizations that might interest them before giving presentations before the rest of the class.

"They're asked to give convincing closing arguments before the class votes," Stader said. "That's how we choose our charity each year. We focus our energies on what we can accomplish for others."

Classmate Michela Ferris gave the project a name everyone could rally around — "Remember Those Who Forget" — and soon the class was putting their leadership skills to work.They created fliers, wrote public awareness announcements, decorated and delivered classroom donation boxes, and challenged other classes with a pizza party for the class that gets the most donations in their collection box. Students also advocated for a School Spirit Day where students would be allowed to "dress down" out of uniform for the day with a dollar donation to their fundraiser.

Principal Hank Golec gave his hearty support.

Student Jessica Newey offered another idea: selling chocolate-dipped candy canes.

Students brought in boxes and boxes of candy canes during December and held "dipping" events at the Jedraszek's home.

According to Lyn Jedraszek, Kylee's mom, "The kids really enjoyed coming together on this, even after dipping many a cane and tying hundreds of bows."

The class sold the candy canes after the school-wide Christmas assembly and during lunch periods.

As December moved forward, students watched their project develop in surprising ways. Parents ordered the chocolate candy canes in bulk, and orders had to be filled.One student ordered Alzheimer's Association donation cans online, put them at locations such as the town library, and collected money at a hockey game.

"One day a parent came in to give our class a check for $100, telling the students she was honoring a member of her own family," said Stader. "We heard many stories of how this illness has touched families."

By last week, the middle-schoolers had raised $1,555 to donate to the Alzheimer's Association.

According to organization spokesman Russ Martin, the charity has a matching challenge, meaning the funds raised by the St. Patrick Schools students will be worth more than $3,000 toward Alzheimer's research.

After taking the final tally, Jedraszek called her grandmother to share her good news.

"It's scary knowing this could still affect members of my family," she said. "But it is comforting to know my grandfather is up in heaven smiling down on us for all our efforts."

Plans are in place for a representative of the Alzheimer's Association regional office in Bedford to visit the school in January.

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