Heroes for Hope Honored in Huntington

Northport High School students recognized three inspiring individuals while raising funds for ALS.

A Midwinter Night’s Dream gala, an annual charity event that raises funds and awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, was held January 12 at Oheka Castle in Huntington.

Each year the event honors several “Heroes for Hope,” inspiring individuals who have shown support for ALS research and related causes. This year’s Heroes were news anchor Katie Couric, New York Yankee Dave Robertson, and actress Christine Taylor. But even more impressive than these A-list honorees were the event’s organizers: 43 students from Northport High School.


project ALS
Left to right: Project ALS president Meredith Estess and executive director Don Strasser, actress Christine Taylor (Heroes for Hope honoree), and ALS patient advocate Christopher Pendergast at the A Midwinter Night’s Dream gala fundraiser for ALS research. Courtesy Sam Levitan.

Students at Northport formed the nonprofit A Midwinter Night’s Dream eight years ago, after two teachers in the district were diagnosed with ALS. Each year since then, a team of teenage philanthropists from the school have learned how to produce a large-scale fundraising dinner and wrangle high-profile guests, who in the past have included athletes such as Nick Swisher, Sarah Hughes, and David Cone and actors like Edie Falco and Richard Kind. In total, through the annual gala and its other programs, A Midwinter Night’s Dream has raised more than $2 million for ALS awareness and research.

Guests at this year’s gala event included actor Billy Baldwin, former New York Ranger Adam Graves, and Christine Taylor, who accepted her award in person. “This is the first award I have ever received in [my] life and I am blown away,” said Taylor, a mom of two who is known best for her roles in Zoolander and Dodgeball. “The only hero cred I have gotten in my house is when I did a few episodes of Hannah Montana, and then I was walking on water.”

Although Couric and Robertson were not able to attend, both sent video messages to thank the students for the honor. “In my TV career I’ve interviewed presidents and politicians, prime ministers, actors and authors, even Lady Gaga, but believe me, my most rewarding work has been raising money and awareness to fight cancer,” Couric said. “I know personally how good it feels to do something so meaningful and how much you all are learning from this important experience. Thank you for all you’ve done to help the thousands of people who are bravely battling ALS, not to mention their families.”

In 2006, Northport students began an ALS Research Program in which they participate in ALS research during the summer months at several centers, from Stony Brook University to Johns Hopkins University. The nonprofit has also created and funded a variety of ALS-related initiatives, including a patient services program for those diagnosed with ALS, and a Philanthropy Center that teaches grade-school students about the importance of philanthropic work in their lives.

For more information or to make a donation to A Midwinter Night’s Dream, visit www.amnd.org.