Number of Participants: 60
Hours Donated: 10
Value of Time Served: $5,070
Event Amount Raised: $15,595
Event Type: Children & Youth
Date: June 1, 2019
Valley Stream North High School
Herman Avenue, Franklin Square
“Get on your feet – we’ve got cancer to beat” was the motto behind North High School’s inaugural mini-THON, held on June 1. As the first school on Long Island to hold this event, which benefits research to cure childhood cancer, North’s students and staff members came together for a venture initiated by two juniors and greatly exceeded their goal.
Originally setting out to raise $3,500, the North community brought in upwards of an incredible $15,595.64 for the Four Diamonds organization. This will go towards research that will be shared to have a broader national and even global reach. It will also provide aid to families facing pediatric cancer, covering the expenses related to treatment.
The idea was sparked by junior Casey Wells after her sister experienced a THON at Penn State University, where it launched in 1993 and later blossomed into a statewide and national event.
“We wanted to do something new and exciting in our school,” Casey said. “We selected Four Diamonds because of its ratio – 80 cents for every dollar raised goes to research and helping families.”
Four Diamonds was formed in memory of Christopher Millard, a young boy who sadly lost his battle with cancer. He had written a story that identified four diamonds – courage, wisdom, honesty and strength – that had the power to defeat cancer. The organization’s mission is to conquer childhood cancer by assisting children and their families through superior care, comprehensive support and innovative research.
Casey enlisted the help of her friend and classmate Hannah Indiviglio, and after getting approval from Principal Rachel Green, began spreading the word to classmates and staff members. Four Diamonds liaison Gail Frassetta came to North for meetings leading up to the event. While Social Worker Karen Ehrlich and teacher Catherine Modzelewski oversaw the initiative, they give all credit to the students for planning and carrying out a successful fundraiser.
“It was entirely student-run – the advisers helped, but the students did all the work and found the inspiration,” Ms. Ehrlich said. “This was really a unique experience, watching this effort evolve the way that it did and seeing the students carry it through.”
Eventually, a committee of approximately 60 North students ranging from grades 7-12 took form and began planning the mini-THON, promoting it through social media and around the school, and fundraising to make it possible. Casey and Hannah coordinated a kickoff week during which announcements were made, lanyards were distributed, and students registered as participants. They presented about the initiative in seventh, eighth and ninth grade classrooms and at faculty meetings, and caught the attention of other students and staff members during an outdoor celebration complete with music and balloons.
“The committee members rallied together and built enthusiasm in the North community and excitement for the event increased,” Ms. Modzelewski said.
Various groups throughout the building joined forces to support this cause. The SADD and Interact clubs garnered donations, and PEL members contributed a $3,000 grant they won from Team Up 4 Community. The school embraced a “Can’t Bear It” teddy bear that could be reserved by classes for $10 per period, and many provided online donations.
Unlike a traditional dance marathon, the mini-THON at North featured six hours of interactive festivities that demonstrated school unity and positive student leadership. The cafeteria was transformed into a dance floor, and the gymnasium was equipped with a DJ and activities such as basketball, karaoke and hula hooping. Attendees wore T-shirts designed by Casey’s sister, Alexandra Wells, that were included with the $20 registration fee.
Casey choreographed an hourly line dance and chant that Alexandra developed the words to. Committee members learned the moves in advance and taught their peers the chorus. The final hour of the mini-THON illuminated the room with a glow party filled with glow sticks. Food was provided courtesy of local businesses, from which students secured donations.
Another highlight of the event was a visit from leukemia survivor Brady Lucas, whose grandmother attended Central High School. He discussed the ways in which Four Diamonds made it possible for him to obtain treatment.
“It was really great to see a whole community come together, led by two incredible children,” Ms. Green said. “This was students leading students in an endeavor that impacted so many.”
“Everyone was so excited and knew it was for the kids,” Hannah said.
North High School plans to continue this event in future years and hopes to expand its ability to make a difference and help Four Diamonds save lives.
Photos courtesy of the Valley Stream Central High School District