Two Local Teachers Raise Awareness to Spread Kindness and Make Change

The Giving Coast

BY BRITTANY MATTIE SRQ DAILY WEDNESDAY PHILANTHROPY EDITION WEDNESDAY JAN 22, 2020

When Lauren Hanrahan, a teacher at Englewood Elementary School, shared her recent diagnosis of Neurofybromatosis Type 2 (NF2)—a rare genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord and nerves—her teacher colleague, Stephanie Ham, did more than provide a shoulder to lean on and a friend to confide in. Ham created a video directed to Ellen DeGeneres to add a Random Act of Kindness to her first-grade classroom bulletin board. That video has been viewed on Facebook more than 16,000 times and nearly 25,000 on Twitter.

While the pair hasn’t heard from the Ellen Show just yet, that video was the catapult that launched Hanrahan and Ham’s desire to join a nonprofit. The pair recently became ambassadors for NF2 BioSolutions, a newly-launched nonprofit started by a doctor, Dr. Nicole Henwood, whose son was diagnosed with NF2. Last weekend, the teachers represented NF2 BioSolutions by participating in the runDisney Marathon Weekend in Orlando. This is the first Disney race for nonprofit, and since the teachers joined the nonprofit, their efforts have raised over $35,000.

Meanwhile, at the runDisney Marathon Weekend Event, Hanrahan and Ham had the chance to meet four teenage girls—all diagnosed with NF2. The girls initially created their foursome about a year ago via the internet and were ecstatic to finally see one another in person. “What better place to meet for the very first time, than the place where dreams come true – Walt Disney World!” says Ham. "Lauren and I were so excited to see the four girls cheering us on at the finish line.  It meant so much to us that they traveled across the globe to come and cheer us on." With hope and determination, Hanrahan and the girls bonded over their extremely rare (1/33,000) and currently untreatable disease. 

While NF2 has no treatment yet, NF2 BioSolutions is currently working on three different approaches for a cure through the use of gene therapy and immunotherapy, "which looks extremely promising," shares Ham. February 9-11, the fearless Englewood teachers and 84 other advocates will be traveling to D.C. to join the NF Network on Capitol Hill to advocate for congressional funding for further NF2 research. 

“It goes to show how one small random act of kindness can turn into something beyond your expectations,” Ham says, “and how family and community can pull together to create a wave of kindness globally.”

If you'd like to donate to NF2 BioSolutions, head here.

Photo of Lauren Hanrahan and Stephanie Ham at the finish line of the Disney Marathon.

'Hope for Hanrahan' Facebook Page.

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