Sparkt Bridges

Girls Raise Thousands to Find ALS Cure

They'll tell you "age is just a number" when it comes to doing something big, like raising thousands to cure the disease that claimed their grandparents' lives


This story is part of a bi-weekly series that celebrates people who are reaching across a divide to "build bridges" with those different from themselves. The Sparkt Bridges series is made possible with the support of UPMC.

Maeve Shaughnessy and Sydney Birchard are only 13, but they've done something most adults can only imagine.

They established their own non-profit organization which has raised tens of thousands of dollars in the battle to cure amyotrophic lateral sclerosis , or ALS.

Also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, ALS is a progressive, debilitating disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, eventually leaving patients unable to speak or walk, even completely paralyzing them.

We got a chance to meet the girls, and find out why they're doing such a big thing to help people, most of whom they will never meet.

Maeve and Sydney founded ALS Kids in 2016 after they were selected in a competition at their school, St. Edmund's Academy in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh (PA).

The "Be the Boss" competition encouraged students to come up with an idea for a product or a business. Of 11 business "pitches," the girls' idea for the non-profit ALS Kids was chosen, and the girls got support in establishing and launching the organization.

"We just want to cure this disease and we're probably not going to stop 'till it happens." Sydney Birchard, co-founder, ALS Kids

Their mission is personal.

Maeve's grandmother and Sydney's grandfather both died of ALS. Not only is their charity paying tribute to their grandparents' memories, it's connected them to hundreds of other ALS warriors and their loved ones who have now become like family.

If you'd like to donate to ALS Kids, click here. That's where you can also register for their 3rd annual 5K at North Park, which will be run April 28th.

Click here for more information about ALS at the national ALS Association website, and click here to find out what's going on locally at the local chapter's website.

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The Sparkt Bridges Project is produced with the generous support of UPMC. Life Changing Medicine.

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