Three years ago, Belleville West High School student Sarah Pendergrass had an idea that would have a positive impact on West and patients at St. Jude Children's Hospital.
When doing her public service announcement for sociology, she asked Stacey Posey if she could create a fundraiser for St. Jude. This campaign has turned into one of the most successful student fundraisers at West, raising $60,000 over the last four years.
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is internationally recognized for its pioneering research and treatment of children with cancer and other diseases.
Ranked one of the best pediatric cancer hospitals in the country, St. Jude is the first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children.
The mission of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is to advance cures and means of prevention for pediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. Consistent with the vision of founder Danny Thomas, no child is denied treatment based on race, religion or a family's ability to pay.
"The campaign is applicable to the students, because they are giving back to kids their own age," Posey said.
All the donations to St. Jude help pay for a child's treatment or the advancement of research. One hundred percent of the money raised by West students goes directly to St. Jude.
"What's unique about this campaign is that it's student-driven -- most of the work is done and organized by student chairs," Posey said.
Students who chaired the event this year were sophomores Kaylie Comly, Ana Sauerwein and Bridgid Keeley and seniors Jamario Jeffries, Gabby Hickey, Josh Freivogel and Maureen Calhoun. Teachers who helped with the event were Posey, Danielle Koeneman, Karen Ready and Heather Harris.
This small group of students and teachers organized many different ways to collect donations throughout the week of March 18-26.
One of the largest sums of the money collected was from the T-shirts sales. Five thousand dollars was raised just from selling the now iconic St. Jude T-shirts seen around school.
The T-shirts were sold for $10, and because the T-shirts were donated by the printing company, 100 percent of the proceeds could be donated directly to St. Jude.
Funds were also raised by a team/club competition. During the week, various teams and clubs donated money to see who could collect the most. The softball team won with $130.
Donations also contributed to the collection of more than $10,000 for 2014. Donations were collected during lunch hours and from letters sent to friends and family members. Throughout the week, students could sign up to help out at the St. Jude rally at the end of the week.
"Throughout the week at lunch, I signed people up for the rally, sold shirts at lunch and also collected donations all week. Then, at the rally I checked people in, walked around helping, answering questions and collecting finished letters. Basically, helping with whatever needed to be done," said senior Gabby Hickey, who served as student chair.
That Friday during 6th and 7th hour, students wrote letters to their friends and family asking for their help in donating to St. Jude.
"We try to coordinate with the March Madness games. It's a nice treat for the students who gave their time (to write the letters)," Posey said.
The students also got to watch some March Madness basketball games when writing the letters.
The St. Jude's Team Up against cancer week is a great opportunity for Belleville West students -- not only to donate their time and money to a good cause, but also to give back to kids just like them suffering from cancer and other catastrophic diseases.