There’s a common public image of a stroke victim. Black or white, male or female, stroke victims are invariably old.
Dallas Hannon knows that stereotype is false. She’s seen her family live through it.
Dallas’ five-year-old sister, Brooke, suffered a stroke before she was even born that went undiagnosed until she was months old.
While Brooke was forced to wear a leg brace in pre-school to help build up strength on the right side of her body, Dallas watched, looking for a way to help her sister.
Along the way, Brooke’s fight attracted the attention of others. A visit from “Pat Bearowitz,” a pediatric stroke awareness teddy bear that has a leg brace of its own garnered Brooke local media attention.
Nowadays, Brooke is happy and healthy, running around with a smile on her face and jumping around like any other kindergartner at West New York’s P.S. 2.
“It was all [Dallas’] idea.- Gigi Hepperle, teacher, P.S. 2
She knew she had to start a fundraiser.
‘All Her Idea’
Dallas came home from school one day energized by her idea and driven to help.
Her mother, Amanda, promptly directed her toward Principal Bernie Abbadessa and gym teacher Gigi Hepperle, who were both enthusiastic about the idea.
“Everyone thought it was a good idea,” Dallas said.
Abbadessa and Heppele promptly went to the Board of Education with Dallas’ idea, gaining approval and allowing Dallas to really get to work.
Dubbing their fundraiser “Change 4 Change,” Dallas, Hepperle, and supporters made posters listing valuable information such as the common signs of a stroke and hung them up all over the halls of P.S. 2.
A giant water jug served as a change donation box, with Hepperle walking around during morning line-up asking students to donate.
The entire school rallied around Dallas and Brooke, with students, faculty, and staff all coming together to donate in support.
Hepperle’s older students would even walk around the halls during free time to solicit donations.
With the school enthralled with the spirit of giving, Dallas became a mini-celebrity of sorts around P.S. 2.
“All of a sudden, you’re seeing posters of what you did,” she said. “Everyone’s like: ‘Are you the girl who made Change 4 Change? Are you the girl who made Change 4 change?’ ‘Are you the girl?’ And it’s like: wow.”
But despite her newfound fame, Dallas was more than grateful to the rest of P.S. 2 for its help, going on the school’s intercom on the final day of the fundraiser to thank everybody for their support.
But the adults are equally fast to give credit to Dallas, who carries herself like a girl far beyond her years.
“It was all her idea,” Hepperle said.
And thanks to her supporters, Dallas was able to raise $501.44 for pediatric stroke awareness, all out of a sense of sisterly love.
All Together Now
Last week, it was uncomfortably hot in the main gym of P.S. No. 2, likely due to a lack of air conditioning in the room.
Amanda, Dallas, and Brooke were there. So were Mrs. Hepperle, the now-empty donation jug, and a massive pile of posters in every pastel color of the rainbow.
With the fundraising campaign over, everyone was happy to sit down and reflect — save for Brooke, who was too busy playing with her hot pink Hello Kitty lunchbox.
“It was a learning experience not only for the children, but for parents, for everyone,” Amanda said.
Hepperle nodded in agreement.
“Whenever I had the opportunity, I would tell the children what [a stroke] was,” she added. Dallas, too, would sit down and explain the concepts to students.
Dallas’ efforts have already spurred on other charitable efforts from students in P.S. 2.
Hepperle let on that one student hopes to hold a fundraiser for her autistic sister next year.
The time for reflection was broken up by Brooke’s small voice. She wanted to go back to class.
Amanda offered to lead the way, but Brooke declined.
“I can go by myself!,” she squeaked, and marched off toward the hallway with a powerful stride.