GREENFIELD - Sometimes the best way to make a message stick is with duct tape.
In an effort to raise awareness about the upcoming Whitnall Middle School carnival and the illness the carnival will raise money for, middle school students organized a "teacher tape-up" fundraiser for after a school assembly on dysautonomia Thursday, April 27.
Dysautonomia is a widely-impactful yet little-known illness that affects one's automatic bodily functions like heart rate and blood pressure. Being so little-known, and nearly impossible to see just by looking at someone, the students decided to make it more visible.
And what better way to do so than sticking one of your teachers to a wall in the gym?
Sticking to it
Throughout the past few weeks, the students had been raising money for the teacher tape up. They took a survey to see who students wanted to see taped to the wall beforehand, and the more votes a teacher got, the more money the students had to raise to get that teacher taped to the wall.
Thanks to a last minute donation from her co-worker, 8th grade science and social studies teacher Ashley Annacchino got the honor of being taped to the wall since the total exceeded $350.
"I can't complain because it's for a good cause," Annacchino said as students affixed strips of duct tape to the wall.
In total, the committee purchased 22 rolls of duct tape for the teacher tape-up, which ultimately ended up holding Ms. Annacchino to the wall, to thunderous applause.
Though the teacher taping was one of the most energy-filled parts of the morning, most of the time was focused on explaining dysautonomia, particularly Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS).
Before the taping, Erin Magennis, a college student with POTS, gave a presentation in the darkened gym, trying to shed light on the invisible illnesses of POTS.
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Since POTS affects the autonomic nervous system, patients have difficultly regulating their automatic bodily functions like blood pressure, which can make simple tasks overwhelming because enough blood isn't flowing to their brain or limbs.
"A flight of stairs looks like Mount Everest," Magennis explained.
She added that certain environments can cause extra stress to the body.
"When I was in high school, I probably wouldn't have been able to come to this assembly," she said, explaining that places with lots of noise, flashing lights, or other excessive stimuli could have a negative effect on her body. "My body would interpret that as a threat."
Even amidst these symptoms, the illness is invisible, meaning just by looking at someone it's not apparent that they have it. Sometimes, this means people are quick to discount the validity of the illness. It can also make the illness more difficult to diagnose.
Since dysautonomia and POTS are so little-known in the world right now, even in the medical world, the fundraising efforts through the teacher tape-up and carnival are incredibly important, Magennis said.
"Your help really makes a difference in my life and the lives of other POTS patients," she said "The goal is really to find a cure so that we can live our lives like everyone else."
As the lights flickered back on in the auditorium, members of the carnival committee, along with Olivia Nelson, a Whitnall grad and their mentor/advisor, explained how students can help make dysautonomia more visible, and how they can help out their fellow student with the illness, who was ultimately the inspiration for the carnival.
Between the carnival, the teacher tape-up, a previous fundraiser, and a Go Fund Me set up to raise money, the students are hoping to raise enough money to make an impact on research, since all the funds will be donated to Dysautonomia International's research fund.
Elizabeth Jesse-Johnson, the main organizer of the carnival, was hopeful that the assembly motivated her peers to make a difference, too. When asked whether the assembly would help more people be accepting of the illness, and encourage them to come to the carnival, she said, "Absolutely."
If you go
When: 6:30 - 9:30 p.m. Friday, May 5
Where: Whitnall Middle School, 5025 S. 116th St.
What: Games, raffles, movie showing, food, and more
Why: Fundraiser for Dysautonomia International's research fund
Cost: $5 admission for adults and children older than age 3