Sixth-graders at a Massachusetts middle school who created a video in December to help raise money for a classmate's medical-research foundation got a belated holiday surprise today.
"I'm here today to let you guys know that you have helped our foundation to get over $1 million!" Jocelyn Duff told the students and staff as she stood by her daughter, Talia Duff. "You showed the world that many people coming together can make an extraordinary difference -- and most importantly you showed the world what you would do for a friend."
Talia Duff has Charcot-Marie-Tooth neuropathy type 4J (CMT4J), a rare genetic disease that weakens the muscles.
In 2017, her foundation Cure CMT4J set a goal of raising $1 million before the year's end to take the science that researchers already have and approach the Food and Drug Administration in hopes of a clinical trial.
So, on Dec. 6, Talia Duff's sixth-grade classmates and their teachers at Ipswich Middle School released a video they'd brainstormed and created, educating people about CMT4J and Talia Duff. The video was shared over social media.
"Talia is just such an important part of our community," said Kathleen Simms, a sixth-grade math teacher at Ipswich. "The video really speaks to that town, this grade, to these students with just how connected they are to her. ... They work with her on a daily basis. They are interacting with her."
Before the sixth-graders' video, the foundation had raised more than $467,000 from 1,385 donations. After the video was released and shared Dec. 6, more than $532,000 was raised from over 4,315 donations.
As of today, according to the foundation, its total raised funds stand at more than $1 million from more than 5,700 donations. The foundation said donations had come from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Armed Forces Pacific Theater as well as six countries.
According to the foundation, children from across the U.S. donated Christmas and birthday monies.
Amelia Mooradd, a sixth-grader at Ipswich who has known Talia Duff for three years, said today that she was excited about being able to help raise money to find a cure for her friend.
"It's just so amazing and I'm so happy that we finally made it to $1 million," she said.
Jocelyn Duff told ABC News today that reaching the $1 million goal was "truly the work of thousands of angels."
She said the foundation's researchers are now putting together all of the necessary documentation to approach the FDA and are in talks regarding a clinical trial site and securing a clinical champion to take on CMT4J.
Jocelyn Duff said funding, however, must continue in order to reach a clinical trial for her daughter and others.
"We are overwhelmed with gratitude and excitement for achieving this milestone and could not be more proud of the message of kindness and generosity that these [sixth-graders] spread throughout the world, but our fight continues and we still need considerable help and donors in the next year," she said.