This past October, A Giving Spirit Foundation, a Davidson, North Carolina-based charity, sent five members of their newly-formed Teen Council (along with an advisor and parents) to New York to join Project A.L.S. at the 2014 GALA. These teens has raised over $12,000 at their first event, a 24-hour walk held that August. They were energized and focused and wanted to know how they could do more to help the battle against ALS. They attended the event as guests of Larry Tarica and then spent the next day with the Estess sisters in the Project A.L.S. research facilities at Columbia University. Here are some their thoughts after their amazing weekend.
Dillon Nels (our one male attendee)
I want to continue work with Project A.L.S. whether it be through AGSF or in some other way. Right now going through the college application process and the process of choosing the next path for my life I have put serious thought into how I can keep contributing to AGSF and Project A.L.S. As of right now I’m still trying to figure out that next step for me. I don’t know where school will take me but after spending time with Project A.L.S. and AGSF I feel like it has made me a better person and I enjoy being involved. I am really inspired by the work that is being done and want to be part of it in the future.
From my experience with Project A.L.S. I learned how powerful a group of people who are committed to finding an answer can be. After reading “Tales from the Bed” and then attending the gala its amazing to see how small Project A.L.S. started and where it is today. Knowing that all of the influential people that attended were all there for a common goal really shows how one thing can unite such a large group. The fact the Project A.L.S. changed the game single handily when it comes to the research part of finding a cure shows how committed they are to finding the cure at any cost. I learned that no matter how small something starts out, through hard work and perseverance anything can make a difference and Project A.L.S. is the perfect example of that.
Amelia Woodall (whose mother is battling ALS)
Attending the Project A.L.S. Gala was an experience that changed my life, and the future of the AGSFTC. Being asked to attend this event allowed me to better understand of what Project A.L.S. has done. The AGSF Teen Council, had the opportunity to meet amazing people and talk with them about what we have done, and are planning on doing with the Council. I was able to learn a lot of information about what is going on with ALS research, and saw philanthropy at it’s finest. Being apart of this event also allowed me to practice speaking to influential and powerful people.
After the event, we toured Columbia University’s stem cell research lab, learned about what is being done there for ALS research. This was an unforgettable experience that I got lots of information and real world experience out of. Meeting these people and learning about what has been discovered has truly altered my perspective on service and on fundraising for the better.
Grace Powers (marketing chair for Teen Council)
This past January, i decided to join an organization called A Giving Spirit Foundation Teen Council. It was created in hopes to get the youth in the community involved in raising money to help Charlotte-area mothers with ALS, cancer, and other life-threatening illnesses, and it did just that. After raising $12,000 from our first event, we immediately began planning our next. But midway through planning our second event, we were presented with a life-changing opportunity. Larry Tarica invited us to attend a Project A.L.S. charity gala. Of course, we gladly accepted. About two weeks ago, after much preparation, talk, and excitement, a few members of the A Giving Spirit Foundation Teen Council and I flew up to New York City for the Project A.L.S. event. We were all thrilled, but it was also fair to say that we were a bit nervous. The word “gala” seems quite intimidating to a high school student. But when the time came to walk through the doors of the nicest looking restaurant I’ve ever been to, we were ready. It all seemed very surreal. As soon as we walked in, we looked to our right and saw Valerie and Meredith Estess. They are such big inspirations to all of us. They built Project A.L.S. from the ground up, motivated by the love they had for their sister, Jenifer. Since reading “tales from the bed” we considered them legends. After mingling around a bit and trying to take everything in and register that I was at the same event as Ben Stiller and Katie Couric, we took our seats. Between speaking to Larry Tarica at dinner and hearing the award winners speak on stage, we all began to realize how great Project A.L.S. really was. When we were all together, listening to people talk about Jenifer and the achievements Project A.L.S. has made, you could feel a sense of togetherness and family. Even after talking to Ben Stiller about A Giving Spirit Foundation Teen Council and his commitment to Project A.L.S., we didn’t feel starstruck, but we felt as if we were on the same team, trying to defeat the opponent, ALS. And after reflecting over the entire experience I can easily say that it was one of the most memorable and amazing experiences of my life. I think about it everyday and how blessed we are to have been apart of such a wonderful event and see how Project A.L.S. is changing lives, making groundbreaking research, and inspiring so many people. As we continue to work on the A Giving Spirit Foundation Teen Council, we will always try our hardest to help build Project A.L.S. even further and carry on the legacy created by the Estess sisters.
Lexi Powers (Teen Council chair)
When I became involved with A Giving Spirit Foundation Teen Council this past year, I was unaware of all the incredible opportunities that were in store for me. The Teen Council strives to provide aid through A Giving Spirit Foundation to local area mothers suffering from debilitating diseases. As a council, we worked diligently to organize a summer fundraiser that raised over $12,000. With this we were able to accommodate many ill mothers and their families with living expenses such as medical bills or utility payments. As if the satisfaction of knowing we had made an impact on families’ lives wasn’t enough of a reward, we were blessed with the invitation to attend the Project A.L.S. Gala in New York City. Larry Tarica, co-owner of the Jimlar Corporation, invited us to join him at this event. Spending time with someone so dedicated to fighting ALS was phenomenal. To say the experience was amazing is an understatement. As we entered the gorgeous banquet hall whatever nerves or apprehension we had quickly faded. The space was filled with Project A.L.S. board members, researchers, and others who admired Jenifer Estess. Everyone was so welcoming and intrigued by our connection to ALS. Meeting the founders of Project A.L.S., Meredith and Valerie Estess, was a definite highlight. After reading Tales from the Bed, witnessing their dedication to the organization and seeing the progression it has made since 1998 was inspirational. While it was exciting to meet the celebrity guests, including Katie Couric and Ben Stiller, it was even more exciting to hear how they had become involved with Project A.L.S. and their connection to Jenifer. In addition to a delicious meal and entertaining program, it was a night we will never forget. The following morning we toured the ALS research laboratories at Columbia University’s Medical School. Meredith and Valerie introduced us to a highly accredited researcher and professor responsible for significant contributions in finding an ALS cure. We were given a presentation by medical student Iman in addition to a hands-on experience and preview of experiments dedicated to learning more about motor neurons and stem cell therapy. In conclusion, this trip to New York City changed my life for the better. It has instilled in me a drive to continue to serve those who are suffering from ALS and to fundraise to search for a cure. I hope to keep in close contact with all of the people I met and encourage others to become involved with Project A.L.S. It was awe-inspiring to be a part of an event that honors such an impactful life and supports groundbreaking research to find a cure.