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National magazine salutes students' fund-raiser

| Sunday, April 22, 2001

Finding items ranging from a cowboy hat to vampire fangs to a black rose was the trick to providing the National Alliance for Autism Research with a four-figure treat.

And for their scavenger hunting on the 10th annual Make A Difference Day last fall, 62 Gateway High School students are one of three east suburban groups being honored in today's issue of USA Weekend Magazine.

The hunt is a component of the school's Community Service Program. Leigh-Anne Weiss, Gateway's community service director, said this was the fifth such search and that students select a different beneficiary each year.

She said students chose the alliance because Gateway teacher Mark Wallace, who has an autistic son, 'had gotten a number of students and teachers involved in a walk for autism research. Some students who were involved in the walk were coordinators of the scavenger hunt and suggested we do it for autism.'

Each year's hunt also has a theme. Last year's was Halloween, which was appropriate because Make A Difference Day was Oct. 28.

Weiss and three student coordinators devised a list of 85 items and divided them into easy, medium and hard categories. Items were worth five, 10 and 35 points, respectively. Among them were:

  • Easy: Cowboy hat, tube of fake blood, small bag of candy corn, fishnet stockings, plastic spider, Halloween greeting card and any Steven King novel.

  • Medium: Vampire fangs, orange glitter nail polish, calendar page containing Friday the 13th, glow-in-the-dark shoelaces and the words to 'The Addams Family' theme song.

  • Hard: Black rose, a Grateful Dead T-shirt, a real cobweb, a crow's feather, anything with Boris Karloff's picture and boxer shorts with bats printed on them.

    Eleven teams, some representing school groups such as the senior and sophomore class councils and the Interact and Key clubs, amassed as many items as they could to collect cash pledged by sponsors.

    Many students had some of the items in their homes, and although they could purchase items they couldn't find, 'we encouraged them not to buy them because they got more points if they didn't,' student coordinator Ben Pegg said.

    A team calling itself the Scooby Doo Crew finished first with more than 900 points out of the possible 1,300, and he said just about every item on the list was found by at least one team.

    The hunt raised $982 for the alliance, and subsequent gifts increased the total to a little more than $1,000.

    To Pegg, who also helped coordinate the 1999 scavenger hunt, the activity means that 'you don't have to walk around a track to raise money for charity. You can have fun doing it. And one of our teachers has a son with autism, so it hit home a little bit.'

    Also being honored by the magazine are:

  • The Girls Leaders Association at Plum High School for a fund-raising walk in Boyce Park that yielded more than $3,500 for the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition.

    About 15 members of the service organization received special recognition from Michele Ridge, Pennsylvania's first lady and the coalition's honorary chairwoman, during a ceremony April 4 at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Oakland.

  • Ya'Shewa Ministries for giving clothing and blankets to the needy in areas frequented by homeless people in McKeesport and downtown Pittsburgh.

    Ya'Shewa Ministries is an independent, McKeesport-based outreach program that serves women and children in crisis and the homeless.

    Pete Bishop can be reached at pbishop@tribweb.com or (412) 380-8518.

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