Northeast Community PTA Students Raise $1,200+ for ALS Research

This is the 15th year students at the Nebraska college joined awareness activities

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by Mary Chapman |

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People put their hands together in a circle to illustrate they are all in.

For the last 15 years, students in the physical therapy assistant (PTA) program at Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Nebraska have participated in a local amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) event that seeks to raise awareness about the progressive neurodegenerative disorder — and raise the funds to fight it.

This year, the students collected $1,220 for the Norfolk and Columbus Community Walk at Skyview Lake, organized by the ALS in the Heartland to support people with ALS in Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota. The funds are in addition to donations made during the walk and items bought at the silent auction.

By participating, the students also gained a wealth of firsthand knowledge about the disease’s effect on patients and their loved ones.

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“Having our students take part in this event is a wonderful opportunity for them to not only give back to an amazing organization, but to experience the effect that amyotrophic lateral sclerosis has on the lives of patients and their family members,” Laura Schwanebeck, PTA program director, said in a university news release. “The biggest part of the day is the ceremonial walk around Skyview Lake to honor those who are living with, those who have lost their lives to, and the hope we all have for finding a cure for the disease.”

As part of their coursework, the PTA students learn ways to treat people with a variety of conditions, including ALS. Each year, students build upon that knowledge by participating in the Norfolk event that’s part of the effort to find a cure for the disorder, thought to affect about 30,000 U.S. residents.

In the days leading up to the walk, the PTA students ask businesses for donations and spread the word about the event and ALS. On event day, they help with set up, participate in face painting and other children’s activities, take photos, help with snack and water stations, all to help make the event a success. When the walk is over, they also help with clean up.

The students’ participation is a curriculum service-learning activity aimed not only at their professional growth, but at getting them to reflect on the experience. Each student must write a paper describing how the event affected them, and how they exhibited the American Physical Therapy Association’s core values — altruism, accountability, excellence, compassion, caring, social responsibility, professional duty, and integrity.

“We are pleased to take part in the ALS in the Heartland Community Walk and do our part to raise awareness of the disease and the organization,” Schwanebeck said.