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Making a point of action: Club aims to raise money and awareness for ALS

This Sunday, Nov. 18 Redwood’s Point of Action Club will be hosting Fallfest, a festival to raise money for Larkspur resident Lori Cohen.

The event will be held in Redwood’s CEA from 10 until 3, and will feature live music, baked goods, students selling artwork, and activities such as bobbing for apples.

According to senior Point of Action Co-President Yodai Yasunaga, the idea to host a festival grew out of the club members’ desire to do something different than the bake sales, garage sales, and walkathons that it has done in the past.

Yasunaga said that club Co-President Sophie Epstein and member Alexandra Hood, seniors, are both close friends with Sammy Cohen, Lori’s daughter, and they proposed that the proceeds from the event go directly to Lori Cohen and her family.

Point of Action Co-President Yodai Yasunaga and club member Suhaila Sikand, seniors, put up posters in the hallways to promote FallFast. The fundraiser will take place this Sunday Nov. 18 in the CEA.

According to Sammy, Lori was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in June 2010. ALS is a degenerative disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement.

“We first noticed it first when she had a slurring in her speech,” Sammy said. “So we went to a bunch of different doctors and we thought it was something to do with her teeth or something like that, but it turned out she had ALS. From then on it’s really progressed. Now she can’t speak and she has trouble eating so she most recently got a feeding tube to help her get the nutrition that we can’t get through regular eating. ”

Although there is currently no cure for ALS, Sammy said that Lori undergoes alternative treatments such as acupuncture and Tibetan healing, a type of ancient, natural healing that emphasizes the use of certain types of herbs.

Sammy said that the treatment that Lori undergoes is not covered by insurance and is very expensive.

According to Yasunaga, although the club is not sure what the turnout will be for its event, it hopes to raise a few thousand dollars to donate to the Cohen family as well as to raise awareness for ALS.

Entrance into the FallFest will cost $7, and inside the event several Redwood students will be selling their photography, artwork, or jewelry, with half of their profits going to the cause.

Additionally, the festival will feature live performance by five musicians. Among them are seniors Gideon Elson, Camille Frazier, and Meg Stoll.

According to Hood, although the Point of Action Club was initially started to address world issues, she thinks it is important to help locally as well.

“You need to help your community before you can help the world,” Hood said. “We know that the money we give will directly help [Lori], rather than sending it some foundation where we don’t know exactly what they’re doing with the money.”

Sammy said that raising awareness is particularly important for ALS because it is not a very well known disease.

“Now a lot of our community knows what ALS is, but for many people it’s kind of overlooked. If my mom hadn’t been diagnosed I’m sure I would have never know what it was,” Sammy said.

According to Sammy, her family has received a great deal of support from the community, and is very thankful that the Point of Action Club has chosen to host this fundraiser in honor of her family.

“There are a lot of people out there who have to deal with illnesses like this, and our community has done countless things for us. Coping with this disease would not be the same without them. Having these people supporting us is the most amazing feeling ever because you know you’re not alone and so many people are willing to help. It’s overwhelming how generous people are in our community are.”

Sammy Cohen said that both she and her family will be attending FallFest.

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Diana Tarrazo, Author