According to the National Meningitis Association, the disease is definitely still around, affecting as many as 3,000 Americans some years. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the serious and sometimes fatal disease can be avoided with a vaccine.
These facts are what Paola is hoping to make people more aware about. The run/walk will not only raise awareness that day, but will hopefully raise enough money so Paola can buy materials and work alongside the health department to bring information to students, including what signs and symptoms of meningitis.
"If they know what some of the signs are, then they can tell their parents how sick they really are," explained Garand.
The awareness will also help youngsters to understand how easily the disease can be spread. Although it is uncertain how Paola contracted the disease, both she and Garand have a few ideas.
"She was in a restaurant that weekend and someone sneezed on her. A waitress had sneezed on her," Garand recalled. "And, she did share a dessert that day with a friend. She was little at the time so they were always sharing drinks at school."
Now, seven years later, with only vague memories of her time in the hospital, Paola is still reminded of the life-threatening illness she faces, every day.
"I have sensitivity to light, noise, headaches and a low immune system," she said.
However, despite these side effects, Paola is still active, participating in various 5-kilometer races, as well as the half-marathon held in Plattsburgh earlier this year. She also plays soccer for Northeastern Clinton Central School.
Now, Paola is looking forward to the Oct. 16 race.
"It's for a good cause and it's going to be a fun day," said Paola.
The race will begin next Saturday at 9 a.m., with registration being held from 7:30 -8:45 a.m. The event will be at the Mooers Recreation Park on Park Lane. The entry fee is $15 and includes a T-shirt. There will also be raffles, music and food.
For more information or to preregister, contact Paola at 236-6827 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The event can also be found on Facebook by searching Meningitis Awareness 5K. For more information about the disease, visit www.nmaus.org.