VUHS students raise $4K for an injured classmate

LINCOLN — On Monday morning, Oct. 15, 60 seniors from Vergennes Union High School walked 8.7 miles through Starksboro and Lincoln in support of their classmate, Michael Alexopolous, and the Love Your Brain Foundation.
The walk marked the 11th time VUHS seniors walked for a charity tied to a greater Vergennes community member; the annual tradition started in 2008. This year’s walk raised $4,000.
Four months prior to the walk, Alexopolous — who suffered a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, as a child — approached his classmates and asked them to walk for him and Love Your Brain, an organization that educates people about TBIs and offers retreats for those with TBIs.
The class voted unanimously to dedicate their walk to Alexopoulos and the organization he proposed. The class also invited Love Your Brain co-founder Kevin Pearce, a former world-class snowboarder who suffered a TBI in a 2009 training accident, to speak at an all-school assembly on Oct. 9.
 Many of his classmates grew up with Alexopoulos and watched him adapt to life with a TBI that resulted from a car crash when he was 5 years old.
Senior Sydney Tarte said the class’ relationship with Alexopolous, whom his classmates call “Mikey,” is what made his cause a clear choice for the walk.
“We dedicated this walk to Mikey because we have walked hand-in-hand with him from kindergarten to senior year. He’s always supported us, so when choosing what to walk for, Mikey was the obvious choice,” Tarte said.
The seniors collected sponsorships and donations for a walk from the former Jerusalem Schoolhouse in South Starksboro to Zeno Mountain Farm, a Lincoln camp that works with Love Your Brain to host retreats.
Dylan Rapoport, the senior class treasurer, said the group chose to walk there due to the connection Zeno Mountain Farm has with Love Your Brain and Alexopoulos — walk funds are intended in part to help him attend a retreat there.
“They (Zeno Mountain Farm) do these retreats and support people with TBIs, and because of that it was a good place to end our walk. Mikey has been trying to get into their retreat, and so it has some personal significance for him as well,” Rapoport said.
The class held a ceremony following the walk and presented checks to Zeno Mountain Farm and the Love Your Brain Foundation.  
For the past decade the annual walk-a-thon at VUHS has brought senior classes together as well as supported a community member and a good cause. Lee Shorey, a staff member at VUHS, helped found the annual senior walk-a-thon and has participated in every one. Shorey said that this year’s walk will stand out to her because of the way it united the entire school.
“It brought the school together, more so than I’ve felt about all of them,” said Shorey.
She said this year’s walk connected the class and the community in a way that fulfilled the purpose of the walk-a-thons at VUHS the way she intended.
“The VUHS Class of 2019 walk-a-thon did what I originally started the tradition of senior walk-a-thons for,” Shorey said. “It unified the class, giving them their identity and pride back, knowing as a group with a purpose they can make a difference.”
Marin Howell is a VUHS senior interning with the Independent.

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