Alyssa’s Army serving at Parton’s to benefit MDA

Alyssa Weiss, 8, is all smiles while posing for a photograph at Montvale Elementary School. Weiss and her family lead Alyssa’s Army, a team raising money for the annual Muscular Dystrophy Muscle Walk on April 2 at the Knoxville Zoo.

Photo by Jolanda Jansma

Alyssa Weiss, 8, is all smiles while posing for a photograph at Montvale Elementary School. Weiss and her family lead Alyssa’s Army, a team raising money for the annual Muscular Dystrophy Muscle Walk on April 2 at the Knoxville Zoo.

She’s a little young for a general.

But Alyssa Weiss is mustering the troops and gathering her “army” for a good cause, and she’s promising good food and good fun to all who join.

Alyssa’s Army Wants You…to come enjoy barbecue and help raise money to find a cure for Muscular Dystrophy.

Alyssa, 8, is a second grade student at Montvale Elementary School. She is the 2011 State of Tennessee Goodwill Ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. From 4 to 9 p.m. on March 8 and again on March 22, Alyssa will be at the door greeting those to come to Parton’s Smokin Butz BBQ in Maryville.

Alyssa and her family and friends will be helping the servers wait on guests. All tips collected on both evenings will support Alyssa’s team - Alyssa’s Army - as they raise money for the annual MDA Muscle Walk on Saturday, April 2, at the Knoxville Zoo.

This is the second year Alyssa’s Army has been mobilized to raise money for the fundraising walk. More than 60 showed up to walk in her honor during the 2010 event but folks work with her throughout the year, Alyssa’s mom Jamie Weiss said.

“Last year was the first year we had Alyssa’s Army. Our team is for the walk. We do different fundraisers throughout the year to raise money for our team’s goal for the walk,” Jamie Weiss said. “We raised almost $5,000 last year, and that is our goal for this year.”

Jamie Weiss said the team has sold Shamrocks as well as Alyssa’s Army T-shirts to raise money.

Janice McKelvey, Alyssa’s ancillary who works with her during the school day, said during the 2010 campaign, students helped raise money by doing a Hopathon. “We would see how many times kids could hop in a matter of minutes,” she said.

“They got pledges based on how many times they could hop,” said Jamie. This is the team’s first fundraiser with Parton’s. Owner John Parton attends Sevier Heights Baptist Church with the Weiss family.

“We approached him, and he suggested us working for tips. We’ll have a team of six people working each night. We’re doing it March 8 and on the 22. We’ll deliver food and wrap silverware,” Jamie said. “All the tips will go to Alyssa’s Army for our donation to the event. John Parton is taking care of the wait staff’s tips out of his own pocket.”

Jamie Weiss said the community has turned out to help. “Harriss Family Dentistry is helping. Their whole office is working with us. They’ve made donations and really supported us,” she said. “The Meceli family has also been supportive. Their kids -- Emily, Rebecca and Nathan -- went door-to-door last year and raised $300.”

Jamie said other sponsors for the team this year include Jack and Jill’s Consignment Event in Knoxville, Alcoa, Inc., Pokey’s and Sports and Samantha Andersen.

Alyssa was diagnosed with Mitochondrial Encephalomyopathy at age 3 and has received support from the MDA since that time. “From funding research for a cure, assistance in purchasing her wheelchair to providing funds for her to attend a special camp each year, MDA has been a blessing to our family in so many ways,” Jamie said.

Alyssa said she enjoys helping raise money for MDA and participating in the MDA camp held in Gainesboro just west of Crossville.

“We do a lot of stuff. We go swimming, and we go to prom,” she said. “I have a couple friends I danced with.”

McKelvey said she treats her like one of her own kids. “I have four grandchildren. I’ve worked with her four years now, and she’s come a long way. I’ve seen the progress she has made with the new things they’ve done with her,” she said.

McKelvey said the other students at Montvale love Alyssa and always play with her. “She runs with the rest of the second graders in the gym,” she said. “In kindergarten she was so tiny. If we walked around the gym, she was exhausted. Her strength has doubled, and she gets on her walker and does three laps.”

John Parton said he is glad to be able to help Alyssa. “You know you take a little girl who is so special and look at everything she has done,” he said. “She has done multitudes of stuff for MDA and her parents. For us as a community, we need to help, so we came up with a dinner as a fundraiser. It’s a way to help the community, the charity and Alyssa. That’s the way I look at it.”

Parton’s Smokin Butz BBQ is located at 411 N Cusick St., Maryville.

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