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Union College student remembered with epilepsy fundraiser

Union College student remembered with epilepsy fundraiser

Second annual event bring together classmates, fraternity members; tries to set future foundation
Union College student remembered with epilepsy fundraiser
Miranda Luse, sophomore, and Alex Piere, sophomore, put on their skates during the open skate fundraiser.
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

Classic rock songs flowed from the speakers at Union College's Frank Messa Rink on Sunday as students clad in turquoise shirts that read "Skate For Alex," welcomed skaters into the ice rink.

The songs and shirts were an homage to Alex Askenazy, Union student who died at the school in October 2017, and the event was a fundraiser for research into epilepsy, the disorder that took his life. 

The Eta Gamma chapter of Alpha Phi Omega at the school held the second annual Skate For Alex fundraiser at from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Askenazy died of sudden unexplained death in epilepsy, (SUDEP), a little-understood complication of epilepsy that affects about 1 in 1,000 adults with the disorder each year.

The group, of which Askenazy was made an honorary member of the group, since he never formally joined, started the annual fundraiser last year. 

One hundred percent of the day's proceeds went to Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE), which funds research into epilepsy and the rare occurrence of sudden unexplained death in epilepsy. 

Askenazy was a goalie on the Union club hockey team and was an avid hockey fan throughout his life.

The two-hour skating period was open to the public on Sunday, but the $5 admittance fees for free skating went to the fundraiser on Sunday. Last year, approximately $9,500 was raised for CURE in total. This year's fundraising goal is $1,200, and the group was already half way to the goal prior to the fundraiser on Sunday afternoon.

Fundraising will continue through the month. Alpha Phi Omega will be tabling on campus for donations and people can also donate online at http://cureep.convio.net/goto/Alex.

Last year, people couldn't donate or volunteer to work the fundraiser quickly enough because Askenazy's death was so fresh in everyone's mind, and more than 200 people attended, event organizer and Union College junior Erick Landreth said.

Landreth, who lived with Askenazy during their freshman year, said the goal for this year's fundraiser and for the future of the campaign, is to broaden the overall goal of the effort and to push some of the attention onto epilepsy research itself, as well as Askenazy.

Last year's event was extremely personal for friends of Askenazy, he said. But now he would like to see more awareness built for CURE as the event goes on, hopefully for years, and wants to fosters a closer working relationship with CURE.

"We're trying to make it a bit more sustainable so that it can last beyond us," Landreth said on Sunday. 

Lindsey Randle, another junior who was friends with Askenazy, said part of the efforts this year went into making sure there were younger students prepared to take on the responsibility of the fundraiser after Askenazy's friends had graduated.

"Part of the goal would be to get this set up so that its easier for people to just move in," she said on Sunday.

She added that a few underclassmen were on the group's planning committee this year, and she and other senior organizers including Landreth had showed them the ropes.

Planning this year's "Skate For Alex" event was not as easy as it was last year for the students, who had to grapple with various hurdles during the organizing process, including simply locking down a time when the rink was free to do the fundraiser.

But people still want to be involved, and the event still embodies who Askenazy was, said his friends.

Fifteen volunteers signed up to work at the fundraiser on Sunday, and others were showing up to help as the day kicked off.

"People have been saying, 'Hey, can I help out?' 'What can I do?' " Landreth said. "I think something that's a little more his style this year is working towards the goal, no matter what other events are in the way and forging through. He was in the style of, 'OK, drop everything. If I have to study for eight hours just do that and get it done.' " 

 

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