School rallies around teacher after ALS diagnosis

- Students and teachers at Steinbrener High School in Lutz are rallying behind one of their own.

History teacher Michael Leist was diagnosed 10 months ago with ALS, also called Lou Gehrig's disease.

The disease is already taking a toll on his body, most noticeably his vocal chords. As he and his family prepare for his battle with ALS, his Steinbrenner High family is pitching in to help.

They took their fight to the field in a game for the ages – teachers vs students kickball game – and both sides at are battling it out against the same enemy. ALS is a fatal disease that's attacking one of their own.

"It's unfair,” a student said. “It’s really true that it always happens to the good people. If I had to pick one person who it wouldn't happen to, it'd be Mr. Leist."

The students and teachers know what lies ahead for Mr. Leist won't be easy. On Friday, the entire school packed the stands for a charity kickball game, raising more than $13,000 to help Mr. Leist and his family with medical expenses.

The disease has already begun to take away his speech, but Leist isn't letting it take away the thing he loves most: his life at Steinbrenner High School, where his three daughters attend and his wife, Lisabeth also works as a teacher.

"The love, it's very humbling," Leist told FOX 13 News.

"When we first got out the diagnosis, I said, ‘Wow, what do you want to do?’ And he said, ‘I want to keep doing what I love,’" Lisabeth said.

Mr. Leist continues to teach at Steinbrenner, though he's not sure how much longer he'll be able, but beyond his social studies and AP  history lessons, he hopes days like this teach the students something even bigger.

"It's not just about me. It's about what we can do together when there are people in need," Leist said.

For more info on how to help Mr. Leist and his family, visit the Keys to Kindness website at www.keystokindness.org.

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