FUND-RAISER Boardman school principal to walk for pupil who can't

The educator will walk from Columbus to Boardman to raise money for an incurable disease.
BOARDMAN -- When school's out for summer, some educators plan a trip. Some just relax. Others teach summer classes.
Michael Notar plans to go for a walk. A really long walk.
In fact, the 36-year-old Stadium Drive Elementary principal will set out June 18 from Columbus, heading toward Boardman, where he plans to arrive July 3.
Notar is strapping on the walking shoes for a good cause: He's trying to raise money for a cause dear to his heart, The Matthew Fund.
Matthew O'Nesti is an 8-year-old pupil at Stadium Drive Elementary. At 18 months, he was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disease that affects the voluntary muscles for activities such as crawling, walking, swallowing, and head and neck control.
Matthew is more than a pupil to Notar; he's a family friend.
"My son and Matt are best friends," Notar said. "He is just a great kid ... very nice, smart as can be. He has a great personality."
Research funds
There's no cure for SMA; research can make a big difference, Notar said. Matthew's family established a research fund at The Ohio State University and the money Notar raises will go into that fund. Notar hopes his walk will focus attention on the need for SMA research. He hopes to raise at least $40,000.
"The family doesn't get any money from this," Notar said. "It's all for research. This is a disease that just doesn't get a lot of attention."
Notar's choice of a walk to raise money is symbolic: He's walking for someone who can't walk for himself.
When he decided to take on this fund-raiser, Notar drove the route from Columbus to Boardman several times. "The route is fairly easy," he said. Weather permitting, he'll cover about 15 miles per day.
He plans to start his journey with a balloon release at the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium at Ohio State, and a small group of supporters will walk the first mile or so beside him. After that, he's on his own.
Notar was in good shape, but he still needed to do some training. He's been working out at the D.D. and Velma Davis Family YMCA in Boardman with branch director Tom Grantonic, who designed a special training program to get him in shape for the walk.
"I found out that walking is a lot different than running," Notar said. Grantonic helped Notar come up with a plan: He'll walk two hours, rest one hour, then repeat the pattern all day.
He'll also have a friend driving along the route in case he needs help.
Notar sent letters out to parents of Stadium Drive pupils, asking for donations. In addition, he sent notes to other schools where he has worked. Originally, he set a big goal -- $100,000 -- but he's knocked that down to a more "reasonable" $40,000. With the walk a little less than two weeks away, $36,000 has been raised.
Notar plans to roll into Boardman around 7:30 p.m. July 3, just in time for the township's Independence Day festivities at Boardman Park. Three weeks later, he'll say goodbye to Boardman; he recently was hired as superintendent of Brookfield Local Schools, and he'll start his new job Aug. 1.
For the next 12 days, he's on a strict program of exercise and rest.
"I'm excited," Notar said. "I just hope the adrenaline carries me through."

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