by Glenn Baldwin
Chris Pendergast (retired elementary teacher 2003), Founder and President of Long Island’s Ride for Life, an organization that has raised over six million dollars for ALS research, is still riding after 24 years of fighting and besting this disease. This past May he and two fellow patients along with a core of volunteers headed by retired Northport teacher, Charlie Catania (retired Phys. Ed teacher), began the 20th Anniversary wheelchair ride from Yankee Stadium to Washington, D.C. They braved a monsoon across the George Washington Bridge for starters.
When not planning the May Ride, Chris, with fellow patients and volunteers, delivers effective and moving school presentations to all grade levels in districts throughout the metropolitan area. Last winter, teams presented over 70 assemblies. I am one of Chris’s co-presenters, serving as his voice for most of each program. Using an age-appropriate script, Chris and I exchange delivery (he with an artificial voice from his eye-controlled computer), telling his story, informing students of the disease while instilling a sense of determination and perseverance. A video showing former Rides and school visits from many years ensues. Then come the questions from the kids, a torrent of them from elementary, a good number from middle school, and a few from high school. The programs are universally well received.
Chris is welcomed and honored by teachers and administrators wherever he goes, adding new schools each year. Northport – E. Northport schools are well-represented. Our presentation with the video motivates students and staff to join the fight to make a difference by fund-raising for a cure. They look forward to a visit from Chris and other patients during the Ride in May.
Now in my 70’s, I did not expect to return to the classroom and auditorium, but here I am, with Chris and other co-presenting patients, in Teacher Heaven.