Elizabethtown College’s Education Organization (Ed Org) hosted the 12th Annual A-T Benefit in Leffler Chapel and Performance Center, Saturday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m.
Ataxia-Telangiectasia (A-T) is a rare, genetic disease that develops during early childhood and progressively affects muscle control, weakens the immune system and predisposes patients to fatal cancers, causing most patients to only live into their mid-20s.
The A-T Benefit is held every year as a way to raise both money and awareness for the children and families battling A-T.
“Twelve years ago, there were students studying rare genetic diseases in a science class, and while they were studying A-T, they discovered that there were a lot of families in this area suffering from the disease,” Ed Org President and junior secondary social studies education major Jennifer Lloyd explained.
“The students decided to hold a benefit and invite the families to the College, and ever since then, it has become a tradition every year, with some of the same families coming back every time.”
It is estimated that A-T affects between 1 in every 40,000-100,000 births, but due to the lack of research and funding, many cases are never properly diagnosed. A-T is a multifaceted disease that affects many parts of the body, but it is generally characterized by the patient’s loss of control over bodily functions. Most A-T patients have trouble walking as children and are eventually confined to a wheelchair by age 10.
Additionally, this loss of muscle control also affects the patient’s ability to speak, swallow and write. Patients often lose control over eye movement, as well, making it nearly impossible to read.
People with A-T are also predisposed to aggressive cancers. These cancers usually develop during early childhood and become terminal at age 10.
About 70 percent of A-T patients also develop an immunodeficiency that causes chronic respiratory infections that do not respond to antibiotics, and therefore become life threatening. This, combined with a weakened immune system, usually leads to pneumonia, the most common cause of death for A-T patients.
Currently, there is no cure or treatment for A-T, only treatments that help to reduce symptoms as they arise.
“What amazed me was seeing the little struggles A-T patients and their families go through every day,” junior English secondary education major Cody Miller said. “It was really an eye opening experience, and the fact that I was given the opportunity to help was great.”
Ed Org raised a total $1,414 through ticket sales, snacks, merchandise and donations at the benefit. The money was then donated to the A-T Children’s Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to finding life-improving treatments and a cure through scientific clinical research.
The A-T Children’s Project also funds the A-T Clinical Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, the only hospital with a dedicated unit for A-T patients.
The benefit also featured performances by numerous Etown students and student groups, including Mad Cow, Jesse Hornberger, Phalanx, the Dance Team, Kory Hilpmann, Vocalign, Megan Ferrel and Emily Soltys, the String Quartet and Emotion.
Ed Org also holds Literacy Nights at the Elizabethtown Public Library on Saturdays, where they read stories and complete different crafts with the Etown community. They also offer babysitting services and volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House.
The club is currently planning their next event, which will be held on Mar. 31 at The Science Factory in Lancaster. They are planning different educational activities with the resources provided at the Science Factory and expect to have over 200 children in attendance.
For more information about this event or the Education Organization, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about A-T and the A-T Children’s Project, visit www.atcp.org.