While it has grown wildly successful, the annual Midwinter Night's Dream ALS fundraiser at Oheka Castle is always bittersweet.
The charity was formed by Northport High School students in 2004, soon after Chemistry Teacher David Deutsch was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. In their first seven years, the students managed to raise $2.5 million for ALS research and family assistance, and establish the AMND gala as one of the premier charitable events of the season.
2012 was AMND's most successful gala yet with over half a million dollars raised. Sadly, just two weeks later, David Deutsch, one of the students' strongest sources of inspiration, succumbed to his illness and passed away at only 43 years old.
Related: Northport High School Loses Beloved Teacher to ALS l Midwinter Night's Dream Surpasses Fundraising Goal
This year's gala is dedicated to Deutsch with the theme of "Light Up the Night." Northport High School Senior Alexis Dondero, one of six senior leaders on the student committee, said Oheka Castle will be candlelit to convey a mood of tribute.
"He's that light for all of us that keeps us fighting so that hopefully we can find a cure," she said. "He was the reason why we started it and why we keep going."
A committee of 44 Northport High School juniors and seniors have worked straight through the year since May to organize the event and raise sponsorships and donations from across the country. The 9th Annual A Midwinter Nights Dream Gala will take place Thursday at 6 p.m. in Oheka Castle.