In 2005, the Town of Huntington opened Mr. P’s Playground, an all-accessible play area in Veterans Memorial Park named after Christopher Pendergast, a retired elementary school teacher who was diagnosed with ALS in 1993.
On Friday, the Huntington Town Board returned to the park to honor Pendergast by taking part in the ice bucket challenge fundraising phenomenon. The board was challenged by the Huntington Chamber of Commerce last week, and in addition to getting drenched made a $1,000 donation to Pendergast’s charity, Ride for Life.
“He’s done such great work, it’s right close to home, and what better place for us to make our mark through the Ride for Life foundation,” Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said of Pendergast.
Pendergast taught gifted children at Dickinson Elementary School in East Northport for 33 years before retiring in 2003. He taught for 10 years after being diagnosed with ALS, even working from his wheelchair for several years after losing the ability to use his legs.
“The children witnessed firsthand the challenges I faced while in school,” Pendergast, of Miller Place, said. “It woke in them the reality of what it means to be disabled.”
Ride for Life, a nonprofit that raises money for ALS research and patient care, has raised more than $45,000 since ice bucket challenges went viral earlier this year. Ride for Life raised more than $5,000 during its own ice bucket challenge, held in Heritage Park in Mount Sinai on Aug. 26.
“We’re a smaller charity, not nearly as big as the ALS Foundation,” Pendergast said. “So for us, this is astronomical.”