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North Hills students plan Monster Dash 5K, Spooky Stroll to benefit Make-A-Wish Foundation

| Monday, Oct. 17, 2016, 7:21 p.m.
Last year's North Hills High School Hands for Service Club and Student Council pose with a check they earned through a dance marathon.
Last year's North Hills High School Hands for Service Club and Student Council pose with a check they earned through a dance marathon.

Halie Smith, 17, was born with cerebral palsy, a disorder that affects muscle tone, posture, motor skills and movement. When she was 3, and preparing to undergo surgery, the Make-A-Wish Foundation granted her wish for a brand-new upright piano.

“It was black and glossy. I still have it,” said the North Hills High School senior from Ross, who continues to rely on a walker for mobility.

“What Make-A-Wish does is really nice. It makes every wish special. I had a party when I got the piano.”

Today, Smith serves as president of her school's Hands for Service Club, which is composed of about 200 North Hills high school students interested in community service and philanthropy. Since 1994, the group has raised about $100,000 for Make-A-Wish, an organization that grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions.

This fall, the Hands for Service Club is partnering with the student council to sponsor a new fundraiser for Make-A-Wish: the first Monster Dash 5K and Spooky Stroll.

The event will be on Sunday, Oct. 30, at the North Park Boat House and will include a 5K run or walk for attendees older than 8, which starts at 10 a.m. Top performers in each age group will be awarded medals. Free snacks and beverages will be offered.

Participants are encouraged to dress in their favorite Halloween costumes.

For children younger than 8, a half-mile Spooky Stroll will begin at 11:30 a.m. with trick-or-treating along the course. Pumpkin decorating also will be offered, and a prize will be awarded for the best costume.

“There will be a lot of things to do for the entire family,” Smith said.

Registration is $20 for participants older than 8, and $10 for 8 and younger. A family registration for four to six immediate family members is $60.

All registrants receive a commemorative T-shirt.

“We hope to register at least 200 people for the event,” Smith said. “Our goal is to raise $4,000.”

This past January, the Hands for Service Club and student council raised $7,025 through a dance marathon at the school. The funds were donated to Make-A-Wish in order to grant a wish in the name of Danielle Kappeler, a 2015 North Hills graduate who succumbed to kidney disease last fall.

According to Dana Antkowiak, marketing/communications manager at Make-A-Wish of Greater Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the money facilitated two local wishes — a 3-year-old boy who wished to go to the Walt Disney World Resort and a 12-year-old girl who wished to go to Key West, Fla.

“Here at Make-A-Wish, we believe that a wish is way more than just a nice experience — we believe it helps our kids feel stronger, more energetic and more willing to fight. And ultimately, if they can feel better, then maybe they can get better,” said Antkowiak.

“We cannot express just how grateful we are to the students for their hard work and dedication to our wish kids.”

Laurie Rees is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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