Honoring a father’s legacy

Published 10:10 pm Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Nansemond River High School graduate Whitney Alston pictured with her father, Jerome Alston, who died of asthma in 2012 at age 48. She formed the Jerome Alston Foundation to carry on her father’s work in the community. Whitney Alston makes the hand signal of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority and Jerome Alston of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.

Nansemond River High School graduate Whitney Alston pictured with her father, Jerome Alston, who died of asthma in 2012 at age 48. She formed the Jerome Alston Foundation to carry on her father’s work in the community. Whitney Alston makes the hand signal of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority and Jerome Alston of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.

Nansemond River High School 2006 graduate Whitney Alston remembers her father as a man who made a difference in the community.

Jerome Alston, a science teacher at Cradock Middle School in Portsmouth, made his mark with a mentoring program for African-American boys — Men of Distinction.

“He took them on educational trips, both locally and out-of-state,” Whitney Alston said. “He taught them how to be leaders, how to be a man in society and professional qualities. He just instilled those values in some of the young men that they didn’t have before, growing up in families with no dad.”

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A fit and healthy man who also coached volleyball at Cradock Middle, Jerome Alston was 48 when he was diagnosed with asthma in 2012. He died that same year.

The asthma hit fast and hard, according to Whitney Alston. Her dad died only a few months after he starting using an inhaler, she said.

Through the Jerome Alston Memorial Foundation, Whitney Alston is now intent on ensuring that her father’s legacy lives on.

The foundation held its first Celebration of Life event in December — the month Jerome Alston died — “just to celebrate his life,” Whitney Alston said.

“It was a little party, a gathering,” she explained. “Something to bring his friends and family together.”

The foundation’s Breathe Easy 5K Run/Walk for Asthma Awareness will be held at the Norfolk Zoo on May 17. Registration is $25 for adults, $20 for youth aged 13 to 17, and $15 for children ages up to 12.

Online registrations are being accepted at www.active.com — search “asthma awareness” in Norfolk — and $5 will be added to registrations received after May 1.

At the zoo on the day of the event, late registrations will begin at 7 a.m., and the race begins at 8:30 a.m., with closing remarks, awards and raffles at 9:45 a.m.

“It’s raising awareness and is also going to be one of our big fundraising events,” Whitney Alston said.

“It’s bringing people out to have fun, to enjoy each other’s company, and to promote a healthy lifestyle, as well as supporting a cause.”

Being new, the foundation has yet to distribute any funds, she said; but she intends for it to support Men of Distinction, which operates in Suffolk, and programs like it.

“Say they want to go on a bus trip to D.C. and they need help getting a bus, that’s where I would come in,” Whitney Alston said.

During the 2014-2015 school year, she said, the foundation plans to start awarding scholarships to young black men to attend historically black colleges or universities. It will also devote funds toward fighting asthma, she added.

Meanwhile, the foundation also seeks sponsors for the asthma 5K. For more information, visit www.jeromealston.org, or email JeromeAlstonMemorialFoundation@gmail.com.