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Students get soaked for a good cause as ALS hits home at Unionville High School

06/03/2016 10:01AM ● Published by J. Chambless

Charles and Elizabeth Muscato, with their children, Mikey and Jenny, and dozens of Unionville High School students, took part in an ALS Bucket Challenge on June 2.

Gallery: UHS Bucket Challenge [6 Images] Click any image to expand.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

The sunny, hot afternoon of June 2 was a good day to splash in some icy water. For dozens of Unionville High School students, it was a good way to mark the end of one of the last days of the school year. And it was a very good day for the Muscato family.

Just as classes let out, Elizabeth Muscato and some friends had set up a table in front of the school and filled coolers with icy water in preparation for an ALS Bucket Challenge to raise money for the ALS Association. Standing quietly to the side was her husband, Charles Muscato, who was diagnosed on Feb. 1 with ALS.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is a disease which attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control muscle movement. Those with the disease gradually lose their ability to walk, talk, and eventually breathe. More than 5,000 people are diagnosed with ALS every year. There is no cure.

Thursday's challenge followed on an international wave of Ice Bucket Challenges last year, in which participants are challenged to dump ice water over themselves and raise money for research into ALS. It was put together by Mikey Muscato and his twin sister, Jenny, who are juniors at Unionville.

“I had participated in challenges before, but I thought this was a way to help my dad,” Mikey said before the challenge got underway. “We were all really sad when he was diagnosed, so I figured this would be a great way to help him out and raise money to try to find a cure. I'm on the tennis team, so I talked to my coach and a bunch of my friends who were able to come out. My sister's on the volleyball team, so she was able to get the team to come out. And then a lot of my friends who are on the football team are here, too.”

Looking around at the steadily growing crowd, he added, “I'm really happy with how many people are here. This is an awesome turnout.”

Jenny credited Mikey with the idea, but said, “I was glad to help out with it. We've both done other Bucket Challenges after people challenged us,” but that was before their father was diagnosed.

Jenny said that when she and her brother informed their dad about the challenge in his honor, “we held up posters that we made, and he started to tear up a little bit,” she said with a smile. “But he was excited.”

Standing with a cane at the table set up for the event, Charles Muscato said, “I'm not someone who seeks the spotlight. So I was surprised” when his son informed him about the ALS fundraiser. “It's been in the works for about a month. But I think it's going to be a surprise to see how many people show up.

“I've been to the Philadelphia ALS clinic, and to Johns Hopkins, where they're doing a clinical trial for a new medication,” he continued. “Cytokinetics is the company trying to develop this new drug. This is the third phase of the trial, so I've been taking it for a little over a month.”

Unionville High School principal Jim Conley took part in the event, helping to line up the teens, and joining them in getting doused with ice water. While Elizabeth Muscato perched on a ladder to film the event, and the school's drone was deployed overhead to get aerial footage, Mikey took the megaphone. “Thank you, everyone, for supporting this. And this is for you, dad,” he said. After a countdown, the students chanted, “UHS fights ALS!”, tossed cups of water into the air, and then sprinted to the coolers to refill their cups for a brief battle of ice cubes and squeals. On the table, a plastic jug was filling with donated money, and many of the students stopped to speak to Charles Muscato, still dripping after being doused.

Conley said that “we're excited to support any family in our community, and in the fall, we're going to try to have a combined ALS effort with Kennett High School and Unionville High School together. We're just happy to be a part of this.”

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.

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