(Photo credit: Justine McGuire)

When Liz Riesterer, walks around campus she attracts a lot of stares, some whispers and a few praising comments. Whether she’s on her way to class, the caf, or just going to hang out with friends, Riesterer is always decked out in full Harry Potter costume.

“I first became interested in Harry Potter in 3rd or 4th grade, right around the time the movies came out.” said theater, media arts and technology freshman, Riesterer. “Overtime it just grew to be more important with everything I was going through.”

The Brighton, Mich. native is very passionate about Harry Potter.

“I credit Harry Potter with saving my life,” said Riesterer.

Her New Year’s Resolution this year is to dress as a Harry Potter character every day until the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 in order to raise money for Tourette Syndrome Association Inc. (TSA).

Several years ago, Riesterer was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome.

“I was in 7th grade when I was diagnosed with Tourettes; I was in a really dark place and suffering from depression. When I would come home from school after having kids spit on me and physically attack me, I would curl up with Harry Potter and that would calm me down,” said Riesterer.

Tourette Syndrome is an inherited neurobiological disorder which is characterized by sudden, uncontrollable movements and vocalizations. Most of the 200,000 known victims of Tourette Syndrome first showed symptoms between the ages of six and eighteen. There is no known cause or cure for Tourettes, although many medications have been found to lessen the effects of the disorder.

After struggling for several years with her disorder, Riesterer finally found some real assurance in the book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

“Most of my problem was that I spoke without thinking,” said Riesterer. “A lot of people didn’t understand me and just thought I was weird.”

The fifth Harry Potter book taught Riesterer to stay true to herself with the understanding that one day, other people would see through to the real Liz too.

Following numerous years of Harry Potter fanaticism, Riesterer took her senior pictures in Gloucester Cathedral in England. This was the place where scenes from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince were filmed. For this, she was named Harry Potter Fan of the Year in 2009.

Another great support system for Riesterer and her family has been TSA.

“When I was first diagnosed with Tourettes, my mom would go online when she had questions and needed answers,” said Riesterer.

Founded in 1972, TSA is the only national organization dedicated to the field of Tourette Syndrome. The association is committed to identifying the cause and cure of Tourette Syndrome by providing grants through its Research Fund to qualified scientists.

Today’s TSA has grown to include 45 chapters and over 300 support groups nationwide.

“[TSA has] been a great part of my journey so I have always wanted to give back for all of the help they gave me,” said Riesterer.

Riesterer said that most of the fundraisers are through Team TSA, but they do mostly marathons which have never been her thing. She knew that she would have to do something on her own.

She contacted the TSA before she began fundraising to make sure they approved and they set her up with a donation page where the money goes straight to the organization.

Riesterer calls herself a Trib-raiser.

“It is a word my mom and I invented,” said Riesterer. “It is a fundraiser that pays tribute to something, because I am also paying tribute to Harry Potter.”

One thing many people find hard to understand is why Riesterer wears the Harry Potter costume.

“When people ask I give them my card and tell them what I’m doing,” said Riesterer. “When people give me a funny look I ask them what they know about Tourettes; the costume is mostly an eye catcher and¬†conversation starter.”

Aside from donations directly to her TSA website, Riesterer takes any opportunity she can to do Trib-raising. Most recently, she was part of Hub of Love in Hubbard Hall. The event featured free candy, fortune telling and sex education material for anyone who attended. One table sold mocktails and that money went to Riesterer’s cause, 42 dollars total.

Riesterer’s goal is to raise 5,000 dollars for TSA by the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. So far she has accrued 1,310¬† dollars through her donation website.

To make a donation to Liz’s team, you can visit www.active.com/donate/teamtsa/riesterer.

To follow Liz’s journey, you can connect with her on Twitter and YouTube.

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