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Skating party benefits Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

February 12, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Instead of presents for her birthday, Tessa Van Houten wanted help in finding a cure for a deadly disease.

So, for the second year in a row, the Northern Middle School student on Friday turned the Hagerstown Ice & Sports Complex into a giant fund-raising party for cystic fibrosis.

As she celebrated her 14th birthday with about 150 people, Tessa collected hundreds of dollars in donations for the Maryland chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

She said her interest in cystic fibrosis was sparked by a friend who has the disease. She said she has done numerous reports on it for school and has done charity work.

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Tessa also has been a fixture at the rink ever since it opened a year and a half ago at the Hagerstown Fairgrounds.

"I just sort of put the two things together," she said.

Tessa's father, Pete Van Houten, said he had to scramble when Tessa pitched the idea of a fund-raising skating party a few weeks before her birthday last year.

"Her mom was a little surprised, but not greatly. I was real surprised," he said.

With more notice, Van Houten said it was easier to plan for this year's party. NBC-25 and the rink teamed up to sponsor the event this year.

Skaters who came with an invitation were given free admission on the promise that they would make a donation to fight the disease.

The rink also pledged to contribute a dollar for every paying customer from the general public.

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that attacks the lungs, slowly robbing their victims of the ability to breathe.

But Van Houten said researchers have made great strides. Average life expectancy of cystic fibrosis victims has risen from the low 20s to 31 in the last 15 years, he said.

While many people grow cynical with age, Van Houten said his daughter has inspired him.

Many of the skaters at Friday's party were Tessa's friends and schoolmates, but she said she also saw faces she did not recognize.

Last year's party raised nearly $1,000.

"I hope to raise at least $2,000 this year," she said.

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