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Students' can-do attitude supports teacher with ALS

Laronde Elementary Grade 7 students Danielle Deslauriers and Kirsten Griffiths sort through containers at a bottle drive to raise money for the ALS Society of B.C. - James Maclennan photo
Laronde Elementary Grade 7 students Danielle Deslauriers and Kirsten Griffiths sort through containers at a bottle drive to raise money for the ALS Society of B.C.
— image credit: James Maclennan photo

Eighteen months after having to quit her post teaching music at Laronde Elementary, Alison Bennett continues to inspire.

Last week, that inspiration resulted in the collection of hundreds of bottles and cans that translated into $676 for the ALS Society of B.C. – an amount that pushed organizers of Team Laronde past their goal of raising $4,000 in Bennett’s honour.

“I think we can reach it,” grinned Hannah Jiwani, as students, parents and teachers worked to organize empties dropped off during the afternoon bottle drive.

“Our goal was originally $1,000. We were collecting so much that I had to raise it.”

Jiwani, in Grade 9 at Earl Marriott Secondary, took music with Bennett at Laronde and was a main character in the last performance Bennett directed at the school before ALS (Amyotrphic Lateral Sclerosis) forced her to quit.

The 48-year-old was diagnosed with the progressive and incurable neuromuscular disease in February 2009. Its symptoms first presented in her hands, and progressed to the point that she had to give up teaching the following November. Over the past year, it has stolen Bennett’s ability to walk and talk.

But it has yet to break her spirit.

Bennett is “incredibly strong,” friend and former colleague Amanda Myring said. “Really, really stubborn, but in a good way.”

Myring is among about two dozen students, staff and parents who have signed on to Team Laronde – formed by Jiwani – to participate in the June 11 Walk for ALS.

Jiwani, who is a close friend of Bennett’s son, Ian, is determined to help find a cure.

“Ms. Bennett was very close to me,” she said, noting her uncle is also living with the disease. “They’re this close to finding a cure and I want to be part of it.”

The Surrey Walk for ALS takes place June 11. Donations may be made at www.walkforals.ca; click on ‘make a pledge’ and search for Team Laronde.

 

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