Walt Whitman High School came out on top of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Pennies for Patients High School Challenge this year, raising more than $90,000 and beating reigning fundraising champion, Walter Johnson High School.
The competition took place throughout the month of February among 15 local high schools, aimed to to fundraise for cancer research and teach students leadership skills. Before Whitman's win this year, Walter Johnson had won the competition seven years in a row.
The 15 schools raised more than $210,000 collectively, with Whitman raising $91,761.76 and runner up Walter Johnson bringing in more than $80,000.
Whitman raised $40,000 more than during last year’s challenge, according to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Whitman’s Student Government Association planned a variety of fundraising events for the student body and members of the community to benefit people with leukemia and lymphoma, such as the Feb. 10 RedRush 5k race and the Feb. 23 bRAVE dance marathon.
Students attributed the success to the community coming together to support a cause important to many.
“A lot of the people who came to bRAVE were kids from other schools, which I think helped a lot,” said Junior Anjana Setlur, who was part of the leadership class who planned the events. “It was bigger than just our school. Everyone knew it was really important.”
More than 800 people came to the dance marathon, Setlur said, and the event raised more than $20,000 in one night.
The students’ sense of competitive spirit also fueled the their desire to win the challenge.
“Students were driven by the healthy competition with Walter Johnson,” said Whitman’s Pennies For Patients student leader Valerie Acker, in a press release, “but more importantly, were determined to go above and beyond in honor of Tim King, Marcela Falck-Bados, and Ben Toth.”
These were members of the school community who were affected by leukemia. Students said the issue being so close to home helped the fundraising cause.
“Everybody knows somebody who is affected by it,” Setlur said. “That’s why everybody came out to raise money, and that’s why we won.”
A pep rally is set for April to honor the two top schools.