Keeneland residents study for kids with progeria: Study-a-thon raised $1,200 this semester

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By Andrea Richard | @KyKernel

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Approximately one in every four to eight million newborns is affected by progeria.

According to the Progeria Research Foundation’s website, progeria is a rare, fatal condition that results in the appearance of rapid aging in children.

Most children diagnosed with this disease die of heart attacks or strokes before the age of 13. As of February 2013, there are 100 known cases of progeria in 37 different countries.

To help raise awareness of this disease, UK’s Keeneland Hall, for the past two semesters, has hosted a study-a-thon for Keeneland residents in honor of Lexington resident Zach Pickard, a six-year-old boy who was diagnosed with progeria in December 2007.

“Study for Zach” has two main goals: “to raise money for a great cause and to raise awareness,” said Eric Neely, Keeneland Hall director.

Dorm residents who participate enjoy free food provided by Keeneland Hall while logging study hours.

To encourage participation, students who log the most hours are eligible to win prizes.

Prizes include gift cards to the UK bookstore, iTunes, and Mad Mushroom. Last semester, when the program first started, students raised about $20.

This semester, students exceeded the programs goal by far.

“We had a goal to raise $306, which is $1 per bed in Keeneland Hall,” Neely said. “We ended up raising $1,200. Needless to say, I am proud of my residents.”

In addition to the individual prizes students get for logging study hours, the floor with the most hours wins a pizza party.

The floor that raises the most money gets to spend time with Zach.

“The floor competition gets more students down there.The more people studying for Zach’s cause the better. It is all really just to help him,” peer mentor Christina Anderson said.

Cassandra Williams, director of student affairs, said that the building’s directors try to find different events for Keeneland residents to build partnerships and connections within the community.

“Eric recommended Zach, a little boy who goes to his church,” Williams said. “He told me about how he has progeria. So the student programming committee, the peer mentors and I did extensive research on what progeria is, what are the causes, and how we could educate the Keeneland population about this particular disease. We were able to do a study-a-thon.”

Williams added that she is pleased to witness the real connection with Zach.

“It is so groundbreaking in my eyes because we were able to get him here,” Williams said. “Usually it’s a cause, it’s a donation, but there’s no connection to a real person where students can actually see that they have made a difference. I think that’s what made ‘Study for Zach’ so touching for many of our students to be a part of.”

All proceeds go to the Progeria Research Foundation.