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John Muir students rally for ALS support

‘Hey ALS. Nobody likes you!’ the students yelled
Alex Fiset and Cooper Oakes, both Grade 4, running to the finish, raising money for the ALS Society of B.C. (Zoe Ducklow - Sooke News Mirror)

Two hundred students at John Muir Elementary School strutted, skipped and sprinted around the school Wednesday to raise money for the ALS Society of B.C.

“No A-L-S” (inhale), “No A-L-S” (gasp), “No A-L-S,” one Grade 1 student chanted to himself as he pounded down the never-ending parking lot in his bright purple Walk to End ALS T-shirt.

This is the first year John Muir has participated in the national fund-mand awareness-raising walk. Teacher Paul Pepin was inspired by a close friend who was recently diagnosed.

Pepin’s Grade 4/5 split class organized the fundraiser and hosted the run — two laps around the school for each class. They held a nickel drive that Pepin estimates will gather up to $700, way higher than their goal of $500.

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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease after an exceptionally talented baseball player who died of the disease at 36, is a fatal degenerative neuromuscular disease causing a person to lose motor control of their muscles.

There is no known cause or cure, and most patients are immobilized within two to five years of being diagnosed, unable to move, speak, swallow or breathe.

A recent fundraising goal for the society has been to start clinical trials in B.C., where an estimated 400 people suffer from the condition. Instead, they have been travelling to places like Montreal and Toronto to get experimental treatment. Pepin’s friend, a lawyer and father, went 14 times during the pandemic.

But not for long: the needed $5.3 million was reached this May, with $2 million contributed by the provincial government. A clinic is being developed at the University of B.C.

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‘Hey, ALS! Nobody likes you!’ shouted Paul Pepin’s Grade 4/5 split class yelled after their walkathon benefitting the ALS Society of B.C. (Zoe Ducklow - Sooke News Mirror)
Grade 1 students crossing the finish line. (Zoe Ducklow - Sooke News Mirror)