Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Boy Holds Own in ALS Fight in Washington

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Boy Holds Own in ALS Fight in Washington

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Woods, Times-Union columnist

You might recall the story of Jason Metcalfe, an 11-year-old boy who took his tooth fairy money, bought some candy bars and began raising money to fight the disease that was killing a friend.

His goal was to raise $500 for the ALS Association. After three months, with donations pouring in from all over the country, he had more than $5,000 and was talking about topping $10,000 before his 16th birthday.

Spin ahead another two months and that story has several new chapters -- including one that forever can be found in the Congressional Record.

Each year the ALS Association holds a National Advocacy Day in Washington, hoping to educate and influence lawmakers about Lou Gehrig's disease. This year, the contingent that arrived at Capitol Hill included a very fresh-faced lobbyist. Picture Mr. Smith Goes to Washington with a red-haired kid from Middleburg playing the Jimmy Stewart role.

"I think having Jason there opened doors," said Dara Alexander, president of the ALSA's Florida chapter.

One of those doors led to Sen. Bill Nelson's office.

The Florida senator told Jason that he had lost his mother to ALS. Jason told the senator that he would like to see him introduce a bill that would waive the 5-month waiting period for people diagnosed with a fatal illness to get Social Security benefits.

"They hit it off," said Carmen Metcalfe, Jason's mother.

We'll see if Nelson will follow Jason's advice. But Nelson did make a statement on the Senate floor -- telling how Jason became friends with the husband of his school's principal, how he took action after George Chapman was diagnosed with ALS, how Mr. Chapman's death in February further inspired Jason.

"Jason Metcalfe may only be a fourth grader at Tynes Elementary," Nelson said, "but his story can teach us all -- young and old -- a lesson in the spirit of giving. …

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