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Remembering Ali Bowling benefit raises money for organ donation

Young and old are invited to buff their bowling balls and shine their bowling shoes and turn out Saturday to support the third annual Ali's Rally at Transit Lanes.

The benefit honors the memory of Alison Gerlach, an active senior at Williamsville South who died unexpectedly at age 17 from Moya Moya, a rare disorder of uncertain cause that leads to irreversible blockage of the main blood vessels to the brain.

Ali never showed any symptoms of trouble with her health before she was diagnosed with Moya Moya. After she died in February 2003, her organs were donated and her parents became active within the organ donation field.

According to her family and friends, Alison was the type of person who could make anyone feel comfortable. Her father, Randy Gerlach, recalls the kindness she expressed to others. One act he recalled was the love and support Ali showed to a mentally challenged friend. Ali would sit on the phone at night and listen to her friend talk. One night her father asked her how everything went on the phone, Ali replied: "It is difficult to understand her, Dad, but I would never hang up."

Her family had a discussion about organ donation before she died and Ali simply told them that if anything were to happen to her, she'd support her mother's belief in the importance of donating organs to help others. Her father said: "If one thing could be said to remember Ali it would be the fact that even though Ali was so young and didn't know what the future brought, she thought enough about people to donate her organs at such an early age."

Over the past two years, Ali's Rally has raised more than $30,000 for Upstate New York Transplant Services. Proceeds from Saturday's rally will benefit the "Life Lesson" education program of UNYTS, which promotes the establishment of student-led organizations focused on educating peers about organ donation. "The most important way to ensure donation is to have family discussions concerning organ donation," says Delia A. Joslyn, a representative of UNYTS. Participating "Life Lessons" schools have included Williamsville South, Mount Mercy Academy, JFK in Cheektowaga, Clarence and Starpoint. Joining the program are Sacred Heart Academy, Williamsville East, Lockport High, Depew High and Canisius.

Tickets for Ali's Rally are $20 and good for three games of bowling (11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., or 2 to 5 p.m.), pizza, pop and snacks. For information about tickets, contact organizers Paul and Eileen Hettich at 626-6627. For more information, check out Web sites, www.unyts.org or http://alisrally.org/

Jessica Andrews is a senior at Williamsville South.

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