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Schools kick off ‘read-a-thon’

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Starting today, students at St. Francis School and Onegaming School will be partners in a nationwide motivational reading program--endorsed by the world’s fastest man--to help raise money for multiple sclerosis.

"What better way to help kids develop literacy, imagination and increase comprehension than to encourage the love of reading?" said Olympic gold medalist Donovan Bailey, the celebrity ambassador for the MS Read-A-Thon.

"And they learn to respect people with disabilities through the awareness program that is part of [it]," he added.

Students will be reading books for the next four weeks, and collecting pledges for each one read. They also are eligible for prizes based on the number of books completed and the amount of money raised.

And by completing the MS Read-A-Thon, students also have a chance to win an educational scholarship from the Canadian Scholarship Trust Foundation (potential value $2,000).

The schools also win because each one that completes the program receives a $50 voucher to purchase books from Scholastic Canada Ltd.

"This is a nice way of getting children interested in reading. And it’s good for our library," noted Darlene Fejos, a teacher at St. Francis School here.

"In the end, we get a gift certificate to buy books [for our school]. It’s a nice feeling," she added.

This is the second time St. Francis and Onegaming School have been involved in this program, with teachers at the latter one also hoping to get 30 high school students on the band wagon this year.

"[Last year] we had a lot of [elementary] students participate," said principal Mary Jane Kelly. "It really helps with reading skills."

The read-a-thon has been an annual fundraiser for the MS Society of Canada for the past 21 years, and has proven to be one of the country’s best, said Brian Chesher, co-ordinator of the Ontario Read-A-Thon.

"For an educational fundraiser, this is one of the most successful events in Canada, outright," he stressed.

Last year in Ontario, 97,492 students from 734 elementary schools participated. More than 437,000 books were read, with $1.2 million being raised for MS research and services.

Since the MS Read-A-Thon began in 1976, four million students have read 21 million books and raised $26 million, which has helped towards finding a cure for multiple sclerosis.

MS is a disease that randomly attacks the central nervous system, affecting the control people have over their bodies. It is usually diagnosed in people between the ages of 20-40, and its effects last for the rest of their lives.

Representatives from the MS Society were on hand today to kick off the Read-A-Thon with an assembly at St. Francis at 9 a.m. and one at Onegaming at 2:30 p.m.

Other schools interested in joining the MS Read-A-Thon can get more information by calling 1-800-268-7582, or by contacting the MS Society at www.mssoc.ca.

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