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PV Elementary Receives MS Society ‘School of the Year’ Award

From the annual Multiple Sclerosis Coin Drive, to rallying participants for Walk MS, CAC students have been longtime supporters of the National MS Society, and this July the Society honored the Pleasant Valley campus for its continued dedication.

CAC PV MS Award

Dylana Cash and Melanie Griffey accept awards at the MS Society ‘Orange You Lovely’ fashion show this July.

The award, named in honor of the CAC campus, is called the CAC Pleasant Valley School of the Year award. It was presented to PV Elementary for its commitment to raising awareness and funding research for MS. Over the course of nine years, PV Elementary has raised over $30,000 for the Society.

The driving forces behind the school’s success are two CAC students whose family has been touched by MS. Ninth grader Sam Griffey and 2014 graduate Melanie Griffey’s father, Phil Griffey, was diagnosed with the disease affecting the central nervous system in 2004. One year later, Melanie approached her fourth grade teacher, Dylana Cash, about starting a Mustang Mission drive to raise money to help find a cure for MS and to promote awareness about the disease.

“Nobody really knew what MS was,” Melanie said. “People would ask me ‘why does your dad walk with a cane?’ or ‘why is he in a scooter?’ So I would tell them, and they would say they would like to help — so I wanted to figure out a way they could.”

Together, Melanie and Cash came up with a solution in the form of a weeklong coin drive. Each day of the drive, students brought in change to donate to the MS Society, beginning with pennies on Monday, nickels on Tuesday, and ending with any form of a contribution on Friday.

“The kids had a little incentive to meet this goal,” Cash said. “I agreed to let Melanie cut my hair in chapel. Well, the school not only met the goal, but surpassed it. We raised over $5,000 that year.”

The next year, the school continued the drive with a goal of raising $6,000. The theme was “Make Cash Go Splish Splash.” That year Cash and the Griffeys, along with Gunner Golden, whose mother has MS, and Natalie and Dylan Smith, whose grandmother has MS, formed an “MS Team.” The school met the goal, and every student was given a chance to dunk the MS Team in a dunking booth.

Since then, PV Elementary has continued to host the coin drive each year, and last April more than 30 students from CAC joined the Griffeys for Walk MS in downtown Little Rock.

“I believe our efforts to support MS research have been so successful because we made it personal. We educated the kids about the disease… They heard how it affected their classmates every day.”

— Dylana Cash

“It has made this father very proud to see the kids embrace this Mustang Mission and run with it,” Phil said. “The lessons all CAC students learn from Mustang Missions are as important as book knowledge.”

Phil, who serves on the MS Society regional leadership council, said that although he has attended many MS fundraisers, there is no other event that parallels the excitement shown by students the week of the coin drive.

For Cash, one of the most powerful aspects of the school’s efforts has been hearing stories about students bringing their piggy banks to pour into the collection buckets. “They are giving from their own money,” Cash said. “At an early age, they are learning the importance of serving others.”

To Cash, their actions are reminiscent of I John 3:18, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth.”

The CAC Pleasant Valley School of the Year award will be awarded annually to an Arkansas school in recognition of the school’s advocacy for the MS Society. PV Elementary is the first recipient of the award based on its success inspiring not only CAC students, but students of other schools, to begin raising funds for MS.

Cash attributes the school’s accomplishments to the efforts of the Griffeys and the other CAC families who have been touched by MS, and their willingness to educate CAC’s students.

Melanie Griffey, Phil Griffey and Lindsey Trussell at Walk MS 2014.

Melanie Griffey, Phil Griffey and Lindsey Trussell at Walk MS 2014.

“I believe our efforts to support MS research have been so successful because we made it personal,” Cash said. “We educated the kids about the disease. Mr. Griffey and Ms. Golden visited our chapel and the kids were able to see firsthand the effects of MS. They heard how it affected their classmates every day.”

Melanie, who was named an MS Society Rising Star this July, said she is grateful for CAC’s continued support. “$30,000 in the course of nine years is a lot, and I’m very thankful. It means a lot to me and my family.”