Ian Chisholm's fourth-grade class at Woodholme Elementary in Owings Mills, Md. gave a simple reading assignment about Lou Gehrig.
The class read a book on the life story of the New York Yankees all-time great. Part of the book focused on Gehrig being diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), which eventually became known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.
After finishing the book, several students had questions about the disease, and that's when Chisholm shared the story of O.J. Brigance.
"I thought it would be a really good opportunity to see something about O.J. Brigance, and thought it would be more of a timely connection for them, especially with it being so local," Chisholm said.
He showed the class a video feature from ESPN about Brigance called "Heart of the Ravens," and they immediately connected.
"They were really moved by it," Chisholm said.
From there, the class decided to write letters to Brigance. They wrote about how his story and positive outlook impacted them.
"It was a lot of messages about perseverance, really counting your blessings, and just his positive attitude," Chisholm said. "The big thing is that they were really inspired by his message and his attitude."
That's when the class wanted to find a way to help. They came up with the idea to raise money forthe Brigance Brigade, a foundation that supports those living with ALS.
They decided to hold a fundraiser by making and selling jewelry, with the proceeds going to the Brigance Brigade. The pieces of jewelry include bracelets, key rings, and clay charms of Brigance's jersey and his No. 57.
Brigance was moved when he heard that the students had started this effort.
"I continue to be amazed by the generosity of people around the country towards the fight against ALS," Brigance said. "It is particularly moving that Mr. Chisholm's class has chosen to help the Brigance Brigade in the fight against this horrific disease. We all can make an impact by using our gifts to help somebody. The students of Woodholme Elementary are using their creativity to make a difference. We all have something to give and they are being excellent role models of how to use your talents to make a difference. I am so moved and honored by their fundraising efforts!"
The class sent out a letter to all 900 students in the school to see if any of them would be interested in supporting the fundraiser. In the two weeks since sending out the letters, the class was able to sell about 35 items.
The class worked with the Brigance Brigade to put together the letter for the families, and Chisholm saw that the message inspired his students into action.
"The cool thing is that whether you're a Ravens fan, a football fan, or not, this story transcends everything," Chisholm said. "I don't know anyone who's not moved by it. "We work really hard on our academics all the time, but being able to teach some compassion and empathy is important, and they definitely got that message. It was a really valuable lesson for them."