Over the past few months, the St. Joseph’s College community has once again been working together with Ride For Life Inc. to help raise awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Inaugurated in 1998, the ride takes place every May in honor of ALS Awareness Month. Patients — along with family, friends and other supporters — ride electronic wheelchairs through the thoroughfares of Long Island, from the East End through Brooklyn and Manhattan, making stops at schools and universities to speak with students, teachers and parents before finishing the ride in Central Park.
The Long Island Campus has been involved with the ride for several years, and for the first time ever, the Brooklyn Campus also became a stop this year. Associate Dean Gail Lamberta, Ph.D., the chair of SJC’s Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, described the May 7 ride on Long Island:
“This year, SJC walked from [Patchogue-Medford School District’s] South Ocean Middle School to the College. We joined forces with the middle school national junior honor society and we all walked together. When we arrived at the campus, another group of students was there to greet the riders, and then we all shared a continental breakfast together. It’s very moving and phenomenal event and certainly an incredible cause.”
The Long Island ride brought together around 60 students from SJC and 45 from the middle school, with SJC students raising approximately $600 for the cause.
“The students raise money through raffles, whiffle ball tournaments and selling pinwheels, which represent hope and the cycle of life,” Lamberta explained.
For the final leg of the ride on May 17, around 80 students, faculty and staff, including SJC President S. Elizabeth A. Hill, C.S.J., gathered on the Brooklyn Campus for breakfast before departing to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge alongside the riders. Once they reached Manhattan, the riders continued on to Washington Square Park and then finally to Central Park, while the SJC community returned over the bridge to campus.
Amanda Beauzile, a senior studying therapeutic recreation on the Brooklyn Campus, decided to get involved with the Ride this year after hearing Chris Pendergast, one of the event’s organizers, speak on campus over the winter.
“Hearing his story and all that he’s been through really inspired me,” Amanda said. “It was really inspiring to see all the people who came out. Even people who don’t go to St. Joe’s came out to support the Ride.”
St. Joseph’s originally became involved with the Ride For Life in 2007, when the student president of the Recreation Club was participating in it. Since then, the relationship has been strengthened through the work of Pendergast, who has dedicated his life to raising awareness about the disease.
“He’s an incredible person,” Lamberta said. “Any time Chris comes to speak to the students, you can hear a pin drop in the room and everybody needs to bring tissues. He’s motivating, and talks about overcoming the challenges in your life — instead of sitting back, do something to try to make the difference. He has made a tremendous difference.”