Skyline student body steps up for pediatric cancer research
December 18, 2013
Teenagers are generally a competitive bunch, and Skyline High School tried to take advantage of that during its Winter Wonder Week fundraising campaign.
From Dec. 9-13, the school’s Associated Student Body leaders organized a series of fundraising activities to benefit the Ben Towne Foundation, a local organization that supports pediatric cancer research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.
The ASB brought in donations through an acoustic music night; a “Buff Puff” volleyball tournament that featured a match between the Skyline varsity squad and staff members; and a “Pack the Rack” basketball doubleheader against rival Issaquah, where students were encouraged to wear blue shirts in support of cancer research.
But perhaps the most vital part of the process was a daily change drive that included four boxes – one for each grade level at Skyline.
“If you put coins into your grade’s box, that adds to your total, but if you put cash into your box, it subtracts from your grade’s total,” said Diego Graterol, the ASB’s director of fundraising. “So what you want to do is put coins in your grade’s box and put cash into other grades’ boxes to try to sabotage them.
“It gets the classes competing against each other, and they want to bring in extra money because of that. So it’s been a great idea.”
ASB President Tony Elevathingal said students put their generosity on display – they raised more than $3,800, including $800 through the music night alone. There was plenty of motivation to help because an anonymous donor is planning to match up to $150,000 in donations to the Ben Towne Foundation during December.
The foundation, which has chapters in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Maine, was started in 2010. It memorializes Ben Towne, a 3-year-old boy who died in 2008 from a high-risk form of neuroblastoma, one of the most common cancers among infants and toddlers.
Alison Maners, a Skyline social studies teacher and ASB adviser, had already been helping to raise money for the foundation and connected her students to it.
“She came to our ASB board with the idea, and we loved it, so we just went with it,” Elevathingal said.
Maners said ASB officers plan a community service project every year, and much of the work they do is aimed at helping Skyline students and programs.
“But we also want to recognize there’s a larger picture and a larger community,” Maners said, “so (Winter Wonder Week) has traditionally been about picking a different group that expands beyond the borders of this school.”
A key reason to help the Ben Towne Foundation, she said, is the organization puts 100 percent of its donations toward its cause – accelerating pediatric cancer research. Despite the fact they’re one of the top three causes of death in children 15 and under, the 12 major types of childhood cancer receive less than 3 percent of the National Cancer Institute’s annual budget.
Skyline students purchased blue wristbands for a suggested donation price of $5, and that was helping to spread the word throughout the building.
The school was also collecting non-perishable food items for Hopelink, a local support system for homeless and low-income residents; and warm clothes and blankets for Tent City IV, a homeless encampment that is being housed across the street from Skyline until mid-January.
ASB Vice President Jake Barokas said it’s been nice to see the school embrace the annual charity week.
“Everyone seems pretty conscious of the need to donate,” he said. “We’ve seen people pretty motivated to donate not just for the coin drive, the class competition aspect, but also supporting pediatric cancer (research).”
“I think the school has come together really nicely to try and raise support for this foundation,” Graterol added. “Part of it is just making you feel like you’re part of the cause, you’re part of the solution.”
Reach reporter Neil Pierson at 392-6434, ext. 242 or npierson@SammamishReview.com.