ALGONQUIN – A Celebrity Apprentice-style competition at Heineman Middle School resulted in a $1,000 donation to the Epilepsy Foundation.
During the project, called the Heineman Apprentice, teams of eighth-graders competed on behalf of their chosen charities by creating a multimedia blog and presented their cases to a board of directors. The team of Sierra Teeter and Amanda Bargiel won the competition and presented the Epilepsy Foundation with a check Monday.
“Many people who develop epilepsy, or who are born with it, have difficulty learning,” said Sierra, whose 9-year-old sister, Anika, has epilepsy. “Anika has very limited communication and she cannot talk to us.”
Sierra said that winning the competition was especially meaningful because the cause hits so close to home. Anika and her mom, Kathie Teeter, were also on the stage during Monday’s presentation.
“A lot of times it’s very difficult not only on her, but on us as a family,” she said. “A lot of times when she has a seizure … she’s very edgy. A lot of times she will have seizures out in public. A lot of people don’t know what to do.”
The money given to the Epilepsy Foundation was collected by school fundraising events earlier in the year, and students were encouraged to donate additional money.
“The ownership that we saw of the students was great,” said Shannon Edgar, eighth-grade teacher and the organizer of Heineman Apprentice. “They really cared about the cause and really understood the impact they can have in the community. It was just unbelievable how invested they got and how much they researched and found out about all the different causes.”
One in 26 Americans will be diagnosed with epilepsy at some point in their life, said Epilepsy Foundation director of communications Ben Slack, who was at Heineman Middle School to receive the donation.
“Projects like this, where you get to connect with people and with a cause that’s near and dear to your heart, it really brings out the character in all of you,” Slack said. “I’m happy to see that even in middle school, you are already taking advantage of that.”
The Epilepsy Foundation serves north central Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. The foundation serves people with epilepsy through advocacy, education and research.
“It’s a day-to-day challenge,” Kathie Teeter said. “But my children have a better appreciation for people, community and love because of [Anika].”