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Team Alex benefit events set in McCandless

| Tuesday, April 21, 2015, 4:07 p.m.
A $5,000 grant from the Team Alex Fund helped pay for van modifications that allow Richard Jenkins, 20, of Mercer County to enjoy more independence in his wheelchair. Jenkins was born with spina bifida.
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A $5,000 grant from the Team Alex Fund helped pay for van modifications that allow Richard Jenkins, 20, of Mercer County to enjoy more independence in his wheelchair. Jenkins was born with spina bifida.
Ella Tomaszewski, 6, of Butler Township, who has spina bifida, received a neuromuscular electrical stimulation unit to help strengthen her quadriceps with a $545 grant from the Team Alex Fund.
Ella Tomaszewski, 6, of Butler Township, who has spina bifida, received a neuromuscular electrical stimulation unit to help strengthen her quadriceps with a $545 grant from the Team Alex Fund.

The Team Alex Fund aids young people with spinal cord ailments.

Richard Jenkins, 20, of Sandy Lake, Mercer County, got $5,000 from the fund to help pay for his family's new, ramp-equipped Dodge Grand Caravan.

Jenkins was born with spina bifida and uses a wheelchair.

“He's 110 percent more independent with this vehicle,” said Amy Jenkins, 42, his grateful mom.

First-grader Angelina Kodic, 6, of Aliquippa, got about $3,000 for her new tricycle-like, Da Vinci hand cycle.

Angelina was born with caudal regression syndrome.

“My daughter cannot walk. … Her spine didn't develop completely,” said Gordana Kodic, 41, Angelina's mom. “She loves being outside.”

Grateful, too, are Shannon, 37, and Jason Tomaszewski, 38, of Butler Township. They got about $545 to buy the neuromuscular electrical stimulation unit that is helping to strengthen daughter Ella's quadriceps. Ella, 6, also was born with spina bifida.

“This grant was a blessing,” Shannon Tomaszewski said.

All of the families can thank participants in the Team Alex 5K/5 Mile Run/Walk — an annual event — for their therapeutic devices and mobility aids.

Proceeds from the fifth annual Team Alex 5K/5 Mile Run/Walk, set to start at 9 a.m. May 16 in North Park, will help similar families. The cost to participate is $27.

People also can support the Team Alex Fund by attending a spaghetti dinner — for a donation — from 5 to 8 p.m. May 15 in Oldenski Hall at St. Ferdinand Roman Catholic Church, 2535 Rochester Road, Cranberry.

Pine-Richland High School graduate Brian McWilliams, 20, organized the first Team Alex 5K/5 Mile Run/Walk and launched the Team Alex Fund in April 2010 to benefit the paralyzed son of Eric Brown, McWilliams' former running coach at Pine-Richland Middle School.

“To date, we have raised over $125,000 and have provided grants in excess of $100,000,” McWilliams recently wrote in an email.

McWilliams, now a student at the University of Alabama, still helps to organize the annual Team Alex 5K/5 Mile Run/Walk with younger brother Austin McWilliams, 18, a senior at Pine-Richland High School.

Amy Jenkins of Mercer County said her family's $5,000 grant from the Team Alex Fund helped to spare her own back from injury.

The grant helped Amy and Rich Jenkins purchase a specially equipped van for their 5-foot-8-inch, 180-pound son.

“I was lifting him in and out of another vehicle ever day to go to therapy and doctor appointments,” Amy Jenkins said. “I was worried about my back because I take care of him full time.”

Amy and her husband, Rich, learned about the Team Alex Fund during visits to the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Spina Bifida Clinic.

“They were absolutely wonderful, because my husband and I could not afford this vehicle without them,” Amy Jenkins said about the fund's administrators. “We are very blessed to come in contact with them.”

Jason and Shannon Tomaszewski, like Gordana and Petar Kodic, learned about the Team Alex Fund through their daughters' physical therapists.

“This is a wonderful cause,” said Gordana Kodic.

The Team Alex Fund offers grants for therapeutic devices and mobility equipment that benefit children and young people with spinal cord injuries and ailments.

The fund's board of directors reviews applications on a quarterly basis. To download an application, visit teamalexfund.org.

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or ddeasy@tribweb.com.

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