BATAVIA – When Batavia third-graders Alice Neville and Regan Recklaus decided to hold a bingo fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, they envisioned it taking place in a basement.
But – with the help of Facebook, advertising at school and word of mouth – the event quickly turned into something bigger than they had imagined.
"Now it's something huge," Alice said Sunday as dozens of children and their parents filed into Bethany Lutheran Church in Batavia for the fundraiser.
"I guess it really spread," Regan said. "It's really an honor for us."
Alice, 8, and Regan, 9, are lifelong friends determined to help find a cure for muscular dystrophy, a disease Alice has.
"We have known each other for our whole lives and want to grow up doing the things we love together," they wrote in a note attached to the participants' gift bags.
Their MDA bingo fundraiser not only surpassed initial attendance expectations, but it also earned the support of businesses. Several donated children's prizes for the bingo winners and raffle prizes for the parents.
The church even donated the space once it learned what it would be used for, said Alice's mother, Cari Neville.
Alice's father, Mark Neville, said the evolution of the event – which happened over about two weeks – was overwhelming.
"It's hard to put into words," he said.
Raising money for other kids helps Alice feel like she's fighting back against her disease, her mother said.
After a few rounds of bingo, Alice and Regan announced they had raised more than $2,200.
Cari Neville thanked the participants and, as is done at MDA events, she encouraged them to show their muscles and say, "Make a muscle. Make a difference."
"That's what you're doing here today," she said.
She said that when she talks with Alice about strength, she explains that it doesn't only come from muscles. It also comes from friends, family and the community, she said.
"We have the strength of all of you," Cari Neville said, "and we could not be more grateful."
Visit mda.org for ways to donate to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Alice's MDA team can be found by searching "Alice's Miles of Smiles" online.