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Hodge Foundation Penny Drive to Help Injured Gomez Teacher

A penny drive started this week by the Nigel O. Hodge Foundation aims to raise money for Alison Ford, a fourth-grade teacher at Joseph Gomez Elementary who recently was injured in an accident at the school.

Ford was injured in September after a ceiling above the walkway in the building for second-to-fourth grade collapsed; she was pinned under the structure, according to reports, and suffered breaks and fractures to both legs.

During the ceremony this week at the school, Ford’s husband Merwin Ford said that his wife is recovering as best as she can under the circumstances.

"She’s coming along, in a lot of pain, but getting on as best as she can," Ford said. He added that he has known about the Nigel O. Hodge Foundation, founded by Josephine Hodge in memory of her son, for the last 10 years and has seen the good that its members have done.

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"I used to run into Ms. Hodge at the hospital, when she was dealing with her son, and I know about the work her foundation has done and I think it’s such a good thing," Ford said. "Through their work, Ms. Hodge is able to remember her son and what he went through, and she tries to see how much she can do to help other kids."

Hodge and other members of the foundation brought a bucket full of pennies this week to start the drive, and over the next few months, will be looking to see how much can be collected at the school to help Ford recover.

"The money that we raise is going to Jalen (Ford’s son) and his mom," Nigel O. Hodge Foundation member Patricia Smith said to Ford’s fourth grade class. "Protecting you guys, she broke both her legs and her kneecap, so we’re raising money for her, and we brought pennies today for all of you to put in."

Merwin Ford said he is thankful for the efforts and said that "every little bit helps."

The family was also treated to songs, a poem and steel pan performance from the school’s fourth-grade class.

Hodge’s son Nigel, a sixth-grader at Lockhart, died in 1994 from complications brought on by Hodgkin’s disease, a type of cancer that attacks the lymph nodes. He spent two weeks receiving medical treatment, but passed away just a month after his first symptoms – a lump found under his arm – appeared. He was 12 years old.

A series of medical mistakes that occurred during Nigel’s treatment prompted the family to file a wrongful death lawsuit, which was settled in 1996. Funds from the settlement have subsidized the Nigel O. Hodge Foundation Fund, under the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, for more than a decade. The foundation has donated more than $40,000 to children in the Virgin Islands, Anguilla, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic.

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