Dover district DECA project helps student honor his father
Dover Area High School senior Jacob Glatfelter had an opportunity to honor his father, who had battled Lou Gehrig's disease for more than three years.
Since getting involved with his school's competitive business club, Dover DECA, on its Community Giving Project, the club has raised more than $8,000 — far surpassing its $5,000 goal.
Despite a tough battle, Jacob’s father succumbed to the disease in August, but Loni Kress, business teacher and DECA advisor said that only helped Jacob and the others push harder.
"This project really has meaning now," she said, and spurred the group on even more to reach its fundraising goal.
Jacob's father was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease — a progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting nerve cells.
One of three project leaders — along with senior Alexi Lunsford, 18, and sophomore Hailie Miller, 16 — Jacob helped choose the Greater Philadelphia ALS Association as the beneficiary of this year's fundraising and was able to reach out to local businesses to get 13 sponsors on board.
"We seem to be getting better at it every year," Kress said.
DECA — historically known as the Distributive Education Club of America before expanding internationally — was founded in 1946 and has 4,700 members in high schools across Pennsylvania.
Members compete regionally in individual or team events and statewide and internationally as a whole on a number of projects, where they are judged for management, presentation and implementation.
Now in its fifth year, Dover's chapter grew from nine members its first year to about 50 this year, when it won second place statewide for its epilepsy fundraiser.
The district is supportive of the group's efforts, especially given that they're student-run, said district spokesman Brad Perkins, because it's important that students chart their own course.
"They're killing it this year," he said.
The club completed several fundraisers to make its goal, including a car show, which was very special to Jacob. Going to car shows was a family tradition, and he and his father used to work on cars together.
"I was born in December, and my first car show was in April," he joked.
After his father was diagnosed, Jacob started putting on his own car shows as a fundraiser. The DECA show — which brought 51 cars to the high school — marks its fourth year.
The club held another fundraising event recently. A fall festival at Whitcomb Farmer's Market in West Manchester Township, where Jacob works, was held Saturday, Oct. 12. The group raised $601 at the event, bringing the fundraising total to $9,354.65.
Dover DECA hopes to reach its goal of $10,000 before competing at the state conference in Hershey this February.
Jacob is also using the project as a jumping-off point to starting his own nonprofit to help families with the financial struggle of ALS. There are few nonprofits that support those living with the disease, he said, and with one income it becomes hard to pay medical bills.
"It’s something my dad wanted to do, so I’m doing it for him," he said.