Later this month, a group of teachers from Casis Elementary will be participating in The Run to the Sun Relay, a race that benefits Batten disease, a fatal disease that hits close to home for this tight-knit community.
In 2008, Casis was shaken by the news that Christiane Benson, a kindergarten student at the time, had been diagnosed with Juvenile Batten disease. The disease is a rare, fatal disorder of the nervous system that begins during the early stages of childhood. After receiving the news of Christiane’s diagnosis, the community of Casis rallied behind her.
Her parents, Craig and Charlotte Benson, established the Beyond Batten Disease Foundation and in 2011, they hosted their first Run to the Sun Relay, an overnight relay race. Teams of six to 10 people participate in this 90-mile venture with great enthusiasm and emotion. The race begins at Enchanted Rock in Fredricksburg and finish’s at Murchison Middle School in Austin.
Larry Chauvin, a PE teacher at Casis, took this relay as an opportunity to not only get himself involved with the foundation, but other teachers as well. The first year of the race there was 15 teams, including Chauvin’s. Within the last three years, Chauvin and his team have raised more than $50,000. In total, $700,000 in donations have been raised by the organization, and this year they hope to break the million-dollar mark.
“The race itself is a great team building event and has brought our campus a lot closer,” Chauvin said. “Not just the parents but the students as well.”
It is also Chauvin’s efforts outside of the classroom that have been extremely fundamental in bringing the community together. He helps put on an after-school fitness program for the students of Casis. The program is two hours and includes different relays and fun fitness games. The parents pay by donation of $25; however many usually give much more.
“That is the biggest fundraiser,” Chauvin said. “All the money supports research and development.”
Currently 21 teams are signed up for this month’s race, with a potential for 30. The fourth annual Run the to the Sun relay will kick off the night of April 26 with more teachers from Casis than ever participating.
Benson’s parents, Charlotte and Craig, are present and visible throughout the race, and wrap up the event with a heartfelt speech.
“The foundation has been a lot of grassroots efforts,” Chauvin said. “It has been amazing to be apart of. It has been amazing to be on board.”
The teachers are excited to participate, and they make sure to remember how and why they are involved. Benson is now in the fifth grade, and her vision is fading quickly. However that does not stop her from living her life to the fullest.
“She never gives up,” Chauvin said. “You would never know anything is wrong. She has a great spirit and energy.”
To learn more about the race, or watch a video from the teams, beyondbatten.org.