Graduating and spreading awareness

By Brandi Bailey

June 5, 2013 Updated Jun 5, 2013 at 11:59 PM EST

Johnson City, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Johnson City High School senior Victoria Hayes has had to work a little harder than her classmates to graduate later this month. But she's taken a difficult disease and turned it into a positive experience herself, and a learning experience for her peers.

Tori Hayes has spent her life battling mitochondrial disease. It's a disease that has no known cure, and the only treatment is symptom based.

"It effects my energy level and my ability to just function daily," Hayes said. "it's harder for me to get around, but I manage."

With a positive attitude, Hayes came up with what she calls a Penny Wars project to raise money and awareness for mitochondrial disease.

With the help of her mom and the student government, she was able to raise money with a friendly competitive edge.

Every time you bring in a penny it counts as one penny. So a lot of kids brought in pennies, but other kids wanted to compete with other classes, so they brought in something other than a penny. It counts against the class," said Student Government President Amanda Cluck.

While each class, including staff, could compete for the winning ice cream party, the fundraiser also brought a level of awareness to the school.

"I think I've gotten more questions and people have asked about it," Hayes said. "I think that's the biggest part of it all."

Hayes now knows her classmates understand her and the disease she's battled her entire life.

"She's done so amazing in high school and she's the sweetest person everyday and it's just amazing to be able to help her," Cluck said.

Just days from graduation, Hayes says she's able to move on knowing she's not alone, and that she's helping to find a cure for mitochondrial disease.

Hayes raised $200 for Mitochondrial Disease Awareness through the Penny Wars fundraiser.

Her next stop is BCC followed by a four-year university where she will major in communications.

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