Students challenged to make a difference
Former Union Ridge student Adam Wozny, 18, speaks to students Friday. Wozny is a freshman at Northwestern University, and was talking about "Miles for MS," a fundraiser he organized. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 14, 2012 12:38PM
As the new school year begins, the principal at Union Ridge Elementary School wants each student to make a difference in their community.
Making a difference was one of the themes presented at a Sept. 7 assembly at the Harwood Heights school.
“Today is a new day,” Principal Mike Maguire said. “We can start the year off fresh.
“That doesn’t mean you need to get straight A’s all the time. It means you need to do the right thing.
“And one person can make a difference,” he noted.
Speaking to that concept was former student Adam Wozny, who founded Miles for MS in honor of his mother.
Wozny rode his bicycle the length of Illinois to raise money for multiple sclerosis research.
“I was like every single one of you,” he told students gathered in the gymnasium. “I rode my bike to school every day, played sports, the trumpet.”
His routine changed in second grade when his mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“There’s no cure,” he said, “only ways to slow it down.”
Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system. The body attacks the sheathing that protects nerves, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Symptoms include muscle weakness and difficulty with coordination and balance, and in some instances, paralysis.
Wozny said he decided he needed to do something. So he founded Miles for MS.
His objective was to ride 500 miles from Cairo to the Wisconsin border to raise $500.
“I figured, a dollar a mile,” he said.
He raised $1,000 the first week. His high school classmates collected $300 in 45 minutes.
Wozny spoke of the difficulties he faced, such as getting lost, almost getting hit by cars a few times. The students were so enthralled as Wozny continued, one could hear a pin drop.
With his mother driving behind him, Wozny finished his bicycle journey. When the time came to send in the donations, Wozny turned over a $4,500 check to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
“It doesn’t take a Hollywood actor or a billionaire to make a difference,” he told the students. “It takes a single person with a lot of heart.”
Maguire reminded his charges that they are never too young to make a difference, giving as an example the thoughtful act of a student who held open the door for him when his hands were full.
“Start thinking now how you are going to make a difference,” he challenged them. “You can ignore a situation or you can address and make it better.”~.