Lehigh University
Lehigh University


Lehigh University and Nitschmann Middle School team up to fight MS

These brown “Join the Movement” T-shirts will be sold for $5 apiece, with all proceeds going to fight MS.

Lehigh’s C.O.A.C.H. program has teamed up with Bethlehem’s Nitschmann Middle School to host two days’ worth of events to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) research and to increase awareness about the disease.

The ambitious fundraising project was sparked by the Lehigh athletics department’s desire to help one of their own: Chris Wakely, who stepped down as lacrosse coach last year after he was diagnosed with MS. Wakely now serves as recruitment director. To read about Wakely’s inspiring life, please see “ Support system sustains Wakely in fight against MS.”.

“When we were informed that Chris was stepping down from coaching lacrosse because of MS, my heart just dropped,” says Roseann Corsi, community relations coordinator for Lehigh’s athletics department. “My first thought, of course, was how can we help Chris and his family? My second thought was how the student-athletes and myself could make a difference and leave a mark. And that’s where the idea for these events was born.”

The first set of events took place on Monday, April 7, at Nitschmann Middle School. The second slate of events will happen Sunday, April 20, at Lehigh’s Goodman Campus.

Nitschmann Principal Jackie Santanasto and Kelly Hipp, a counselor at the middle school and advisor to the students on the Principal’s Advisory Leadership Committee (PALC), were eager to join forces with Lehigh in the fight against MS because loved ones and family members of some of the middle school’s students and staff have been stricken by the disease.

“This event has been such a wonderful experience to be a part of for all those reasons,” Hipp says. “The students on the Principal’s Advisory Leadership Committee have gained some incredible leadership experience and exposure. For Nitschmann as a whole, it has created such an awareness of what MS is, and has allowed the students to feel empowered knowing that they helped to make a difference.”

Events at Nitschmann on April 7 included an assembly in the school’s auditorium on MS to help generate awareness and understanding of MS for the students. The assembly also involved having Wakely speak to students about his own experiences.

The final portion of the assembly was done as a game show: “Are You Smarter Than a Nitschmann Student?” Questions for the game show, created by the PALC, were based on facts about MS. Lehigh student-athletes from the C.O.A.C.H. program, short for Community Outreach by Athletes who Care about Helping, served as contestants. Once the game show ended, the action moved to Nitschmann’s gym and cafeteria, where middle-school students participated in a series of physical activities with over 65 Lehigh student-athletes.

Then, on Sunday, April 20, on Lehigh’s Goodman Campus, there will be a MS Walk beginning at 11:30 a.m. The walk, organized by Lehigh student Chris Andreola and the entire Theta Xi fraternity, will loop around Lehigh’s athletics fields before finishing near the men’s lacrosse field—where Lehigh’s men’s lacrosse team will host Notre Dame at 1 p.m.

The game vs. the Fighting Irish will be just one of a series of lacrosse matches that will be played on the field that day—starting with youth league games in the morning and an Emmaus High School game on Lehigh’s turf that night.

In addition to the MS walkers who will line up sponsors to raise money, the brown “Join the Movement” T-shirt that was designed by one of Wakely’s three children (10-year-old Jack) and one of his former lacrosse players (senior Dan Honeywell, a design arts major), will be sold for $5 apiece, with all proceeds going to fight MS.

“Everyone in the Lehigh family—student-athletes, staff members, the members of the Theta Xi fraternity who are organizing the MS Walk—have all risen to the challenge,” Corsi says. “During my years at Lehigh, I’ve seen the generosity of the people here countless times—particularly when they can help a fellow Lehigh person like Chris Wakely and make a difference in helping fight MS.”

Working with Corsi on organizing the events are C.O.A.C.H. chairpersons Stuart Baxter (men’s lacrosse) and Lisa Sweeney (softball), as well as the eight C.O.A.C.H. committee members: Theresa Fromm (track and field), Greg Furst (men’s lacrosse), Marquis Hall (men’s basketball), Julie Kuhns (field hockey), Maureen McReynolds (volleyball), Frank Lawler (former football player), Claire Sullivan (women’s basketball) and Ali Torborg (softball).

For more information on any of the events, contact Roseann Corsi at rz00@lehigh.edu or (610) 758-6309.

--Bill Doherty

Posted on Friday, April 18, 2008

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