Slide Show: Mercy H.S. hosts ALS Ride for Life 2011 kickoff

Bishop McGann-Mercy High School in Riverhead served as the kickoff point Monday for the annual ALS Ride for Life fundraiser.

After a brief program, and a blessing by the school’s chaplain, 7th and 8th graders, 110 students in all, accompanied Chris Pendergast, the organization’s founder, and other Ride for Life team members on the first seven-mile leg of their ride, organizers said.

They walked from McGann-Mercy to Riverhead High School to pick up members of the Riverhead Honor Society.

Then the group continued to Riverhead Town Hall.

Ride for Life, founded in 1998 by Chris Pendergast, is an organization dedicated to developing awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease), supporting patients with ALS and their families, and raising money toward finding a cure.

The group is called Ride for Life because of the annual event, during which “ALS patients ride their electric wheelchairs down the highways and byways to raise funds for a cure and create awareness for their plight,” according to its website. “During the past seven years, ALS patients rode their wheelchairs from Yankee Stadium to Washington D.C., and from Montauk Point to Manhattan and helped to raise over $1.5 million dollars.”

Mr. Pendergast, a 1966 graduate of Mercy High School, was stricken with the disease in 1993. Considered to be a member of the McGann-Mercy family, the school’s 7th and 8th graders have adopted Mr. Pendergast’s struggle and cause as their own, school officials said.

At a presentation at Town Hall, McGann-Mercy students presented Mr. Pendergast with a donation of $2,000, money that was collected daily at school.

Riverhead National Honor Society members presented him with a $500 donation.

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