The second annual Tampa Bay National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Walk has found an unlikely supporter this year in the University of South Florida Inventors Club, which hopes to shed light on a serious issue.
The Inventors Club is currently fundraising to donate to the NEDA Walk, which will be held Saturday, Feb. 25 at 10:00 a.m. in the Al Lopez Park.
The group of thinkers, innovators and future business leaders began raising awareness for eating disorders after learning about Bailey Monarch, an 18-year-old who was paralyzed, lost her hair and nearly died as a result of battling anorexia.
“We felt it was important to have some kind of philanthropy,” said Ally Lewis, a USF Inventors Club member who helped organize the club’s involvement in the NEDA Walk.
Lewis, a sophomore double majoring in psychology and molecular biology, said that “when you hear [Bailey’s] story, it’s hard to ignore.”
After getting treatment, Bailey wanted to help other people who struggle with eating disorders. She founded the Tampa Bay NEDA Walk in 2011, raising $33,000.
NEDA Walk Coordinator Cherie Monarch, Bailey’s mother, spoke at the Inventors Club meeting Tuesday, Jan. 31, where she thanked the club for getting involved and expounded upon the dangers of eating disorders.
“Eating disorders kill 10 times more people than car accidents,” Cherie Monarch said. “And if we don’t do something, there will be an entire generation of kids that have eating disorders.”
Monarch estimates that 11 million people suffer from anorexia and bulimia, with around 30,000 Tampa Bay area residents suffering with eating disorders. Without treatment, up to 20 percent of serious eating disorder patients die, a number that drops to 3 percent with treatment, according to NEDA.
“It’s not something that you usually see a USF Student Organization getting involved in,” said Inventors Club Publicity Officer Taryn Dewey. “We wanted to do something a little different.”
The USF Inventors Club, she said, hopes to prove with creativity and ingenuity they can tackle far greater issues than just technological ones.