Most people know the mitochondria as “the powerhouse of the cell.” Yet, when one has mitochondrial disease, it is like “running a house on a battery” as student, Nadia Maciejewski puts it. Nadia, a junior at Valencia High School, is one of approximately 20,000 people in the United States affected by this rare condition where the mitochondria in body cells are not able to properly generate energy. In support of her and all other families affected by this disease, Valencia High School’s choir organized the “Mito Walk and Roll” to spread awareness and benefit research for a cure for mitochondrial disease.
This special event was arranged by VHS choir’s two presidents, Mia Lucero-Garcia and Kaylee Brewis. They were able to gather different performing arts groups from the school and allow them to perform at VHS’ football field . They also invited various food trucks and set up stations and activities. T-shirts were designed with a green ribbon, as green is the official color for mitochondrial disease awareness. In effort to raise money to help those affected by mitochondrial disease, the walk cost $5 per person, the t-shirts were sold for $10, and separate donations were also collected.
At the walk, not only were there students from VHS, but also students from other schools and adults in the community. People were given green beads on a string each time they walked around the track and were also awarded prizes for multitudes of fun and silly activities–such as throwing water balloons from increasing distances while trying not to let them pop. VHS’ dance team, hip hop team, jazz band, and, of course, the different choir ensembles (Concert Choir, Treble Vocal Ensemble, Soundwaves Vocal Jazz, and Two N’ Four Vocal Jazz) all performed at this event.
The highlight of the event was when another person with mitochondrial disease met Nadia for the first time. It really demonstrated how supporting each other can help to make new connections. Christine Tavares-Mocha, VHS’ choir director, explained that as much as the choir family loves to sing, loving and helping everyone is what’s important.
Nadia described this event as “a dream come true kind of moment”, and she is very thankful for everyone that participated in the walk. At the end of the event, everyone released green (biodegradable) balloons in the air and walked one last final lap with her. This amazing Mito Walk and Roll was a huge success, and everyone has hope for the progress of finding a cure for mitochondrial disease.
Jasmine Jhun, Grade 9
Valencia High School