Poughkeepsie Journal—POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—September 16, 2007
Many teenagers in the Hudson Valley are kindhearted individuals who reach out to improve the lives of others in the community. Some volunteer at libraries or hospitals. Others hold backyard carnivals or sell lemonade and donate the proceeds to charities.
Then, there are the teenagers who undertake major charitable projects that would seem daunting to most adults. Although these teens' chosen causes are varied, their motivation is similar - they are driven to help others - and usually inspired by others in their lives.
When 14-year-old Aiden Gallagher of Salt Point was 11, she was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus. This is a disease in which the body produces auto-antibodies that attack its own skin, joints and organs. The cause is unknown and there is no cure.
Though Gallagher suffered with crippling symptoms, such as stomach pains, arthritis and fatigue, she didn't dwell on the negatives. Instead, she extended a hand to fellow lupus patients.
"My goals are to have people in our community learn about lupus and to gain money for research to find a cure for lupus," she said.
To that end, Gallagher, along with fellow pediatric lupus patient, Una-Marie Antczak, suggested the Lupus Foundation of America manufacture and sell purple lupus wristbands, similar to Lance Armstrong's LiveStrong wristbands. The Lupus Foundation of America instituted the idea. To date, the lupus wristbands have raised $330,000, according to the foundation.
Soon after, Gallagher established her own nonprofit organization called Beating Lupus, which coordinates lupus fundraising events and sells hand-beaded Swarovski crystal bracelets. The proceeds are given to the Lupus Foundation of America and to its Connecticut chapter.
Gallagher's lupus treatments consist of chemotherapy administered at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, and she empathizes with others in similar circumstances. For this reason, a branch of her charity, Comforts for Chemo, provides handmade blankets and Moshi pillows to chemotherapy patients.
"Comforts for Chemo gives comfort to everybody undergoing chemotherapy for the first time at Hospital for Special Surgery," Gallagher said.
Comforts for Chemo has attracted volunteers across generational lines. The residents of the Manor at Woodside in Poughkeepsie crochet and knit blankets to contribute. The younger set jump in to sew, as well.
"LaGrange Middle School quilt club made lots of quilts with angels on them," Gallagher said.
Gallagher said her family members have been wonderful role models of charitable outreach for her.