Lincolnshire student leads fund-raising effort
Daniel Wright eighth-grader Ben Brandt, 13, hiked the Porcupine Mountains in Michigan this summer with his Boy Scout troop. This weekend, he is organizing a fund-raising sports tournament to benefit multiple sclerosis research. | Photo courtesy of the Bra
THE FALL FLING
• Open to Daniel Wright Junior High students
• $15 admission
• Teams will compete in dodgeball, kickball, ultimate frisbee or volleyball
• Proceeds will benefit the Myelin Repair Foundation, which raises money to research cures for multiple sclerosis (myelinrepair.org)
Updated: November 19, 2012 1:34AM
LINCOLNSHIRE — When Ben Brandt stood up among his peers in his middle school lunch room and took the microphone, he started telling his classmates about a friend — an older man in a wheelchair sitting next to him.
Brandt, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Daniel Wright Junior High, said the experience was one the coolest things in the world.
“I was actually really happy,” Brandt said of his public speaking experience and the positive response he received from classmates afterward.
Brandt is the organizer of Fall Fling, a sports tournament aimed at raising money for a non-profit organization. His friend is Bob Gregory, a 56-year-old man who can be seen at meetings of just about every community service group in Lincolnshire. He also has multiple sclerosis.
Brandt met and befriended “Mr. Gregory,” as he calls him, by chance, and this weekend’s fund-raising effort will work in his honor.
“I had no idea that he even knew about it,” Gregory said Tuesday. “This is a 13-year-old kid, who’s tapped into big-time issues. I was absolutely thrilled.”
The Fall Fling is a benefit for the Myelin Repair Foundation, a California-based fund-raiser for MS research. When Brandt decided that he wanted to organize an event that would help Gregory, he started searching the Internet for possible beneficiaries, and came to the conclusion that this group was the clear choice.
“Out of all foundations, it’s so much different than all the other foundations you see,” he said, explaining that the Repair Foundation also helps MS suffers with many of the extensions of their symptoms. “It’s changing the way that medical research is done. It wowed me.”
Brandt first met Gregory years ago. Hiss sister, Molly, played soccer on Stevenson High School’s varsity squad, and one of her teammates was Christine Gregory, Bob Gregory’s daughter. Brandt volunteered to be the team’s ball boy, and became acquainted with the frequent visitor.
“Ben and I sort of knew each other,” as Gregory put it. “Basically, it was just to say ‘hello.’”
Later, Brandt decided that he wanted to run for vice president of Daniel Wright School’s Junior National Honor Society chapter. To do so, he had to propose a fun school-wide event and a school-wide service project. Raising money for MS research came to his mind.
“I have a personal connection with someone” with MS, he explained.
So, Brandt got on the Internet to learn about the disease.
“I generally tend to look things up on my own,” he said. “The more I kept learning about it, the more I wanted to learn.”
And so he learned about the condition that triggers one’s immune system to overreact and attack one’s nervous system, causing those to lose muscle control.
And, for the avid soccer player, sports would be his fund-raising method. In particular, he organized a tournament that mixes the schools older and younger students on teams.
“As an eighth-grader, we never get to beat up on the fifth graders, in anything,” he said. “I just thought it would be really cool to have everybody face off.”
Brandt and the other honor society members will serve as referees instead of participants. Uncertain of how many participants he will have or what the donations would total, he said he wished the entire student body would participate.
“I’m shooting for 300 to 400, that’s half our school,” he said.
Brandt rallied interest in the event Sept. 13 when he invited Gregory into the school lunch room, introduced his friend to all of his classmates, and explained how they could help those with MS. Gregory said the experience was a little disorienting for him, but that Brandt put him at ease.
“He grabbed the microphone, with poise beyond his years,” Gregory said. “Then he handed me the microphone and I made an inarticulate attempt to explain auto-immunity MS and MRF in 90 seconds.”
After their speeches,Brandt said several of his peers introduced themselves to Gregory.
“We had kids coming up and talking to him for 15 minutes, just figuring out what a cool guy he is,” Brandt said. “It was just really awesome.”