Scholarships Offered to Students with a Parent with ALS

The Merfeld Family Foundation Scholarship Fund — a national scholarship to help children of parents with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) pay for their college education — is now accepting applications for the fall 2012 term.

The deadline to apply for one of four $2,500 scholarships is Jan. 6.

The scholarship fund was established by Greg Merfeld, who received an ALS diagnosis in 2010 at age 49. Merfeld has lost more than 20 relatives to the disease, which runs in his family.

“I know the potential emotional and financial devastation if families are not fortunate enough to have resources like health, long-term care or life insurance and disability plans already in place. They go into heavy debt mode quick,” Merfeld said in a press release announcing the scholarships.

Merfeld, a market-research executive, is married with two teenage children, and lives in the Conejo Valley region of California.

The scholarships are being administered by the Ventura County Community Foundation (VCCF), located in Camarillo, Calif. Preference will be given to Southern California students as well as those from Iowa — Merfeld’s home state — but anyone across the country who meets the qualifications will be considered.

Current college enrollees and high school seniors planning on attending college are eligible. The scholarships are open only to students with a parent (not other family member) who has ALS.  Students must have a minimum grade point average of 2.75 to be considered.

Thanks to Merfeld’s friends and colleagues, many of them Ventura County residents, he has raised more than $250,000 for the fund.

“When I was diagnosed with this disease, many people reached out to me and asked what they could do,” Merfeld said. “A few months later it hit me: Start a scholarship fund. I am amazed by the generosity of so many that have contributed to helping these children in their time of great need. My goal is now to get this to $500,000 before I call it a day.”

Entries must arrive at the VCCF by Jan. 6, 2012. For further rules and criteria, please go to the VCCF website and click on “apply/donate to a scholarship.” Or, contact program officer Virginia Weber at (805) 988-0196, ext. 119, or by email at vweber@vccf.org.

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