Last week the Interact Volunteer Club sponsored its third annual Pancakes For Parkinson's fundraiser to benefit The Michael J. Fox Foundation For Parkinson's Research (MJFF).
The philanthropic event at East has grown every year since its inception. In the first year $1,100 was raised, and the following year generated over $1,500. This year the civic-minded student club surpassed its goal of $2,000, with a grand total of over $2,300 collected from charging students, faculty and members of the community $1 per pancake.
While over 1000 actual pancakes, both traditional and chocolate chip, were whipped up and flipped fresh on the griddle in the cafeteria by student volunteers, the aggregate amount accrued was bolstered by the innovative, new addition to the fundraiser this year: paper pancakes. They were made available for those who couldn't come to the event, but wished to support the cause. Almost $900 in donations came from this aspect alone, which was the idea of one of the main organizers, Kristen Furguson, 17. She along with fellow Sachem East senior, Christine Coggins, 17, and Interact Volunteer Club advisor, Richard Lemke, a science teacher at the school, were instrumental in making this community outreach venture a success.
Pancakes For Parkinson's events are held all over the country, and support a cause close to Lemke's heart. His uncle was diagnosed with the degenerative disease when in his early 30's. The disease may have been triggered by chemicals he was exposed to while working with iron rods in shipbuilding for the Navy and the NYPD.
"Three girls went out to our community, made pancakes, flyers, organized signups for students to do pancakes, made slideshows to educate at breakfast and had meetings to learn about Parkinson's research for our volunteers," said Lemke. "Out of three girls we were able to educate over 150 student volunteers, and hopefully educate the over 1,000 people who came here today."
Coggins' family is also one of many that have been affected by this debilitating affliction.
"Parkinson's is such a horrible disease. It affects 1 in every 100 people over 60. My great uncle had it. They don't know what causes it, whether it's environmental or genetics. If it's genetics, I definitely want to find a cure," said Coggins.
After being virtually unable to walk, incredibly, Lemke's uncle, now 51, rides his bike about 17 miles a day, thanks to a treatment, developed in part from research done by MJFF, called deep brain stimulation.
"It's not a cure, but it will extend his life 10 to 15 years, and make it so much better, and he has three girls too. What's great about this organization is that the majority of everything we fundraise goes to research," said Lemke. "Just getting the information out there is more important than pancakes. Educating the public and the students about the disease is what this day is really about."
For those who couldn't make it to the event, but would still like to donate, contributions can be made on the MJFF website, which will go toward Sachem's total amount.