When Roswell High School student Merrill King lost her battle with Leukemia two years ago, her fellow students took it personally - and raised money to help put an end to the disease that killed their friend.
According to Emily Milian, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's School & Youth Programs campaign manager, despite having a goal of only $10,000, Roswell High School students raised $15,123.46 during 2011. The effort makes Roswell one of the top fundraising schools in Georgia this year.
"The students did a fantastic job with the service project; I am so proud and impressed," Milian said.
"We’ve been doing the 'Pennies for Patients' fundraiser for the past couple of years as a way for the National Honor Society to give back to the community," said Virginia Steindorf, the National Honor Society student Pennies for Patients coordinator at Roswell High School. "We knew we could do something about it wanted to use our abundant resources to help families like the Kings."
But when club sponsor Ally Williams, laid out specific fundraising goals at the beginning of the year, Steindorf was worried.
"We were shocked that by the end of our campaign, we had shattered the goal and donations were still arriving," she said. "It’s incredible what happens when students combine their efforts to make change!"
To raise money, the school's National Honor Society chapter lead fundraising efforts through e-mail campaigns, online initiatives, donation boxes in classrooms, donation collection at football games, special events at local businesses and a Male Faculty Sexy Leg Contest.
"The sexy leg contest was probably the most hilarious," said Steindorf. "I bought the largest and tackiest high heels I could find at Goodwill and took pictures of select male faculty, wearing the heels in shorts, from the waist down."
With the identity of the teachers kept secret, students voted for the teacher with the sexiest legs by putting money in a bucket with the picture attached. The winner, Mark Schuler, sported a blonde wig, a dress and the high heels down a runway at the school's Homecoming pep rally.
Other efforts to help raise money included a tweet by a cast member from the "Real Housewives of Atlanta" and a donation link being placed on a local radio station website.
Various incentives were offered for each fundraising level reached to encourage donation, including:
- $2,500 – Tarzana Zarzana - Assistant Principal Sal Zarzana, dressed up as Tarzan.
- $5,000 – Paul Jennings, student body president, got dreadlocks.
- $7,500 – School administration dressed up as Men in Black.
- $10,000 – The “cast” of Harry Potter visited and served free "butterbeer" in the cafeteria.
According to Steindorf, who credits Williams with keeping the club on track to reach its goal, the fundraising reached its peak with Harry Potter day. The event - held once the school hit its $10,000 goal - included the National Honor Society club dressed as characters from Harry Potter and all of the promised incentives.
Spending countless hours decorating and using 120 liters of cream soda, 44 bottles of vanilla butter and nut flavoring, as well as 70 bottles of whipped cream, the club not only made butterbeer for everyone who wanted to try it, but also transformed the cafeteria into the Great Hall from Hogwarts, Harry Potter's school.
"It was definitely my favorite moment in high school. No competition," said Steindorf.
The funds raised by students are used to support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's mission, with is to find a cure for blood cancers and to improve the quality of life for patients and their families, said Milian. According to Milian, LLS can fund a Family Support Group for a year with $200; a CT scan for $50, tissue-typing for a bone marrow donor with $75, a single prescription drug co-payment with $25, and a week’s salary for a medical researcher with $1,000.
"I like to think that RHS is helping us fund a researcher for almost four months; in those four months, that researcher will make huge strides towards a cure," she said. "This donation makes a big difference."