SCOTCH PLAINS – Last year, while in fifth grade, Terrill Middle School student Josh Klapper tabbed Tourette Syndrome as his service learning project – enlisting the services of the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders’ (NJCTS) youth advocate in-service program to get it done.

This year, Klapper decided he wanted to give back to NJCTS by trying to get Terrill Middle School’s Builder’s Club to choose the Center for its annual fundraising walkathon. Klapper’s proposal was so good that it won by student vote in a landslide, and on June 4 more than 30 of teacher Ben Rogers’ students and Klapper’s sixth-grade classmates walked – and in many cases ran – around the grounds of Terrill Middle School in Scotch Plains.

Their efforts that day, along with fastidious fundraising leading up to the event, helped raise $3,500 to benefit NJCTS’ statewide education outreach and peer advocacy programs. It’s the fifth such student-initiated fundraiser to take place on NJCTS’ behalf in 2013, joining Ramapo College, North Brunswick High School, South Plainfield High School and the Northern Burlington County Regional School District.

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“I’m really proud that I did this and that everybody knows that Tourette Syndrome is and has awareness about it now,” said Klapper, who raised an impressive $480 of the $3,500 himself and also has Tourette Syndrome. “It’s really cool to be doing this during Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month, too.”

Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month runs May 15 through June 15, and because of Klapper’s efforts every student, teacher and parent associated with Terrill Middle School now knows that TS is an inherited, misdiagnosed, misunderstood neurological disorder that is characterized by sounds and movements known as tics, and affects 1 in 100 children.

Rogers, a sixth-grade teacher who helped Klapper put together the fundraiser, has been leading Builder’s Club Walkathons for years now and was extremely impressed with how this one – which had an original fundraising goal of $2,000 – turned out.

“It was pretty awesome what these kids did,” said Rogers, who oversaw a raffle and pancake dinner as part of the fundraiser. “We do this every year and talk about giving back to the community. The kids went out on their own, did all the research – even going on NJCTS’ website to find out about TS – and raised all the money. This was easily one of our best years.”

Joining in on the festivities was “The Kandi Factory” winner and South Plainfield High School graduate Cory Singer, who sang several songs – including his hit I Can Do Anything, which has generated more than 70,000 hits on YouTube since being release in early May – and signed autographs for the eager students after the walkathon.

“Cory was great, throwing out little things about TS,” Rogers said. “Josh is pretty amazing at talking to everyone about it, but Cory put it in a way that everyone could understand and appreciate. He was just great.”

To find out how to start your own fundraiser to help NJCTS better serve New Jersey’s Tourette community, call 908-575-7350 or e-mail info@njcts.org. For more information about TS or the efforts of youth advocates around the state, please visit www.njcts.org or the Teens4TS blog.