The Hope is in the Students
For Don Strasser, the evolution of Team Packard was a natural progression. As founder of the successful A Midwinters Night's Dream (AMND) program at Northport High School on Long Island, Strasser was responsible for guiding students in the New York high school to raise a staggering $3.5 million over ten years for ALS research. AMND was established when a beloved teacher, David Deutsch, was diagnosed with ALS and Strasser and the Northport students decided to hold a fundraiser in the teacher’s honor to raise money for ALS research.
Ten years later, AMND has now evolved into Team Packard, a student-run philanthropy program that the Packard Center launched with Strasser to engage youth in better understanding ALS and helping to raise money for research into its eventual cure. “What we built with AMND was phenomenal and I knew it was a model that should be extended outside of our small Northport community,” noted Strasser. “It’s been incredible to see how this disease and program has motivated and inspired these students into doing remarkable feats in terms of philanthropy and community service.”
In 2014, its first year, Team Packard hosted fundraising events at sixteen schools and raised just over $100,000 for the Packard Center. Events included a science challenge, dance-a-thon and several 5k runs. Participation ranged from elementary through college-aged students, and events were held all over the country. The size and scope of Team Packard events are slated to grow even larger this year.
“We have great things planned for Team Packard this year,” Strasser notes. “We are starting to see this spread geographically and the students are thinking outside of the box in terms of types of events they are planning. Their creativity is boundless.”
Although many of the participating schools have a connection to Strasser and AMND, not all schools start out having a personal connection to the disease. Many former AMND committee members have launched Team Packard events when they go off to college and even sometimes when they have landed teaching positions after college. “It’s been remarkable to see the commitment, ten years later,” said Strasser. “ALS has left an impact on them and it’s rewarding to see them paying it forward with future generations of young philanthropists, too.”
More than 100 middle school students took part in the Middle School Science and Engineering Challenge last year as part of a Team Packard event.
The impact that Team Packard has had on the Center has been significant as well. “Team Packard has a perfect fit for expanding the Center’s reach,” said Kathy Davis, Packard Center Administrative Director. “Not only has it been an immediate success in terms of fundraising and participation, but it has introduced the next generation to the importance of scientific research and philanthropy. For the Packard Center, that is a winning combination.” To date, donations raised from Team Packard events have helped to fund two Packard Center research projects.
Sticking it to ALS with LaxOutALS
In the spring of 2016, students came to Strasser with the idea of hosting a charity high school lacrosse game to raise money for ALS as one of their school’s Team Packard events. Lacrosse, a thriving (and growing) sport in the New York area, seemed like a perfect venue to raise money and engage students in a deserving cause. Students collected donations at the game, sold T-shirts, secured corporate sponsors, and raised awareness for ALS with a short halftime presentation. At the first game, Cold Spring Harbor High School raised $5,000 for ALS Research. Since then, the movement has expanded to seven high school games and two collegiate games.
Nine LaxOutALS games were held last spring, including two at the collegiate level.
“LaxOutALS has been another great example of students using their creativity to combine their passions with a desire to help others,” notes Strasser. Plans are already underway to host more LaxOutALS games in the spring of 2017.
Want to bring a Team Packard or LaxOutALS event to your school?
Team Packard is looking to expand! If you want to host an event, please visit www.teampackard.org or contact Don Strasser at firstname.lastname@example.org