Hope Loves Company Receives Grant from NJ Association of Student Council

From right to left: Riyan Kabir, Matthew Girardi, Alexei Sepe Girls left to right: Erin Contilliano, Francesca Rodrigo, Alexis Bailey, Katerina Robles, and Diya Patel

Hope Loves Company, a Mercer County non-profit organization, has received more than $122,000 from New Jersey Association of Student Councils (NJASC) as NJASC’s charity for the 2015-2016 school year.

NJASC, established in 1927, is one of the oldest state student councils in the United States, with members from high schools and middle schools both public and private, throughout New Jersey. In 1981, NJASC adopted the annual state charity program. Each year, they collect donations from student councils throughout New Jersey to support a charity selected by the state officers elected to represent all the student leaders of the state. To date, this extraordinary group of students has raised over three million dollars for state nonprofits.

Hope Loves Company, founded in 2012 by President, Jodi O’Donnell-Ames, was established to fill a big need in the ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease) community: to support children who had or have parents and grandparents living with ALS.  Affecting 30,000 Americans annually, patients with ALS typically live only two to five years after onset of symptoms. The disease has no known cause or cure to date and 85% of patients have children. Hope Loves Company (also known as “HLC”) is the only nonprofit with this mission in the entire United States.

O’Donnell-Ames lost her husband Kevin O’Donnell to ALS in 2001. Two years later, she married Warren Benton Ames, also a widower to ALS. The Mercer County couple united in hope and raised three children who had lost a parent to ALS before the age of 10. There were no available resources for their children so they vowed to create them. Warren’s children: Nora and Adam Ames, and Jodi’s daughter, Alina O’Donnell, have all graduated from Hopewell Valley Central High School and now volunteer at Hope Loves Company, helping children who are currently caregivers to their terminally ill parents. Watching their children volunteer at Hope Loves Company’s premier program, Camp HLC, brings joy to Jodi and Warren.

“It was powerful to watch the student councils raise awareness and funds for HLC,” says Jodi. “Meeting so many capable and caring students was life changing.”

O’Donnell-Ames was a high school member of NJASC and her program, Camp HLC,  is held at Fairview Lakes, YMCA in NJ, exactly where she attended Student Council training in the 1980s.

About this serendipity, Jodi said, “I am a proud graduate of NJASC. I believe in encouraging and embracing student leadership. NJASC is an effective forum for tomorrow’s innovators and entrepreneurs. I was grateful to once again be a part of that enthusiasm with each school visit.”

The New Jersey Association of Student Councils (NJASC) has provided leadership training and opportunities for student leaders and their faculty advisors since 1927.  Thousands of student leaders and their advisors from over two hundred member schools throughout the state attend seasonal conferences each year at which they network with fellow student leaders and advisors, share ideas and best practices, receive recognition at the state level for outstanding programs and achievements, while being motivated and learning from nationally recognized speakers and experts in the field of student leadership.  The annual NJASC Leadership Training Conference (LTC), held each summer since 1956, is the oldest continually operating conference of its kind in the United States.  For more information, visit www.njasc.org. Hope Loves Company’s team spoke at schools all over N.J.  “We were welcomed and appreciated wherever we went.” explains Jodi. “We have met some incredibly talented and compassionate students. Just thinking of them brings smiles now.”

For more information, go to www.hopelovescompany.org, call 609-730-1144, contact HLC at jodi.odonnell-ames@hopelovescompany.org. See their Today’s Show coverage http://www.today.com/parents/children-parents-als-get-support-counseling-camp-hope-loves-company-t95501

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