May 11, 2012

Ragnar for Rory brings Indian Trail community together

From Highland Park Patch – May 11, 2012

Andi Rosen
District 112 News

In an inspirational outpouring of community spirit, the entire Indian Trail school community came together last week to honor the memory of a beloved student and to raise money to help eradicate pediatric brain tumors.  As part of their efforts, the school’s 384 students ran a combined 664 miles and collected more than $8,300 in donations for the Rory Deutsch Foundation.

Rory Deutsch was a first-grader at Indian Trail in 1998 when he was diagnosed at the age of 6 with an aggressive tumor known as a brain stem glioma.  He passed away five months later.  His parents, Ross and Mindy Deutsch, with the help of friends and family, started a foundation in his name to support medical research and to create opportunities to engage young people and adults in activities that can make a positive difference in their lives.

The fundraising event at Indian Trail last week, dubbed Ragnar for Rory, accomplished both of those tasks.  Not only did it generate significant funds for the foundation, it also directed the energies of the entire school towards learning about long-distance running and lifelong fitness.  The idea for the event began with Indian Trail teachers last fall, who began making plans to take part in a 200-mile relay race from Madison, Wisconsin to Chicago planned for June.  At the same time, the school was looking for an event that could help support the Rory Deutsch Foundation.  Rory has two brothers and a sister who graduated from Indian Trail, and another sister who is a current fifth-grade student.  Teachers came together around the idea of tying their participation in the relay to something the students could rally around.

“We started coming up with ideas and the next thing you know we had a whole curriculum and a team in training,” said Indian Trail Physical Education Teacher Joshua Funke, who helped coordinate the Ragnar for Rory event and will be one of the runners in the June relay race.

Last week, students in every grade in every gym period received instruction and coaching about long-distance running.  Teachers and students with Highland Park High School’s cross-country team visited Indian Trail’s gym classes to help out and give tips on proper techniques for long-distance running, and students went outside for practice runs.  On Friday, May 4, the students used pedometers to track the number of steps they ran or walked, with the goal of collectively getting to 400,000 steps, the equivalent of 200 miles.

“Very early in the morning, we realized we were going to shatter that goal,” Indian Trail Physical Education Teacher Sheri Henkel, told students and parents at the Friday afternoon assembly celebrating the schools’ accomplishment.  During the course of the day’s gym classes, the school’s students logged a total of 1,329,426 steps, or the equivalent of 664 miles.

The fundraiser involved everyone in the Indian Trail community—teachers, students, parents and local businesses.  “We related it to our curriculum, and to PBIS (the district’s positive behavior management program),” said Indian Trail principal Craig Keer.  A map outside the gym depicted the route and distance, so students not only learned techniques for long-distance running, but they learned geography and math as well.  “Most importantly, our students were able to learn about being good citizens and helping others,” said Keer.  In the weeks leading up to the day of the run, students informed family members and friends about the event and asked for donations to help support the foundation.  To date, more than $8,300 was collected, and a check to the foundation was presented to Rory’s parents on Friday afternoon.  “It’s a tribute to Rory, to our school, our community and the entire district,” said Ross Deutsch.

The foundation supports a $1.25 million endowed brain tumor research program run by Dr. Stew Goldman, who treated Rory, and a $3 million endowed program at the brain tumor center at Duke University, that recently opened a lab devoted to researching pediatric brain stem gliomas.

In addition to P.E. Teacher Funke, the other Indian Trail teachers who are running from Madison to Chicago on June 8 to 9 are Danielle Gutelli, Christine Buti, Stefanie Labellarte, Ryan Phillips, and Ben Brandstrader.  The route will run directly past Indian Trail on Saturday afternoon, and community members are invited to cheer the runners on.  For more information about the event or to make a donation to the foundation, go to this link:  To follow the Indian Trail teachers in their Madison to Chicago relay race, be sure to like their Facebookpage.

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