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Macomb Township

Iroquois meets $25,000 fundraising goal for cancer research

June 19, 2013

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Members of the Iroquois Middle School student council — with sixth-grade counselor Lynn Dawson and Principal James Capoferi standing behind them — hold up the giant check they received honoring the school’s fundraising efforts for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — It’s one thing to set a goal for yourself, but it’s another thing entirely to actually achieve it.

Students at Iroquois Middle School recently had a chance to experience this proud feeling of accomplishment. On June 12, they officially reached their goal of raising at least $25,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s annual Pasta for Pennies program, which is presented in conjunction with Olive Garden. The school was able to bring in $25,168.91 for LLS over the last several weeks: a record for any school in Michigan.

“This was an amazing way to end the school year, and we have to thank all of our students, parents and staff for making this happen,” said Lynn Dawson, sixth-grade counselor and student council coordinator at Iroquois. “The kids were so excited when they heard the news. I announced it over the P.A. system yesterday (June 12), and there was this gigantic roar through the whole building.”

The school’s $25,000 fundraising goal was not chosen at random. By reaching that number, Iroquois will become the first school in Michigan to have an LLS research project named after it. Students chose to pursue a pediatric blood cancer grant because, as Dawson pointed out, that is the leading form of cancer among people under the age of 21.

According to Carol McQueen — campaign director of Pasta for Pennies and its sister program, Pennies for Patients, for the Michigan chapter of LLS — cancer research grants like this “are extremely important because they allow scientists to look for cures right now, not six months or a year from now. People today are living longer and finding cures faster because of research like this. I was so glad to see Iroquois choose pediatric blood cancer because it’s something that’s relevant to people their age — it’s kids helping kids.”

McQueen added that as their research project progresses, Iroquois students will have the opportunity to remain involved every step of the way. They will receive regular updates and can take part in online conferences and talk to the researchers behind their project.

Iroquois was able to raise more than $25,000 through a series of events that included a spaghetti dinner and silent art auction, a powder puff football game between the seventh- and eighth-grade girls, a school dance, a movie night, various competitions held between individual classrooms, and sales of food and beverages at school. And they made it just in time, reaching their goal on the final day of the 2012-13 school year.

Pennies for Patients was founded in 1994 and has grown exponentially since that time. According to Andrea Greif, director of public relations for LLS, the program’s name is based on the fact that it started out as a campaign in which schools collected loose change in jars on behalf of LLS. However, it soon expanded its scope after schools began branching out and developing more creative fundraising projects.

As Greif noted, there are about 27,000 participating schools in Pennies for Patients spread across LLS’s 61 U.S. chapters. The program generates more than $30 million annually for LLS research grants, cutting-edge cancer therapies and treatments, and educational and support services for cancer patients. It is always held in the spring near the end of the school year, when schools are given about three weeks to raise as much money as possible.

At Iroquois, though, LLS extended the program by a few extra weeks. “We were so close to reaching our fundraising goal that they agreed to give us more time than they normally do,” Dawson explained.

McQueen pointed out that Iroquois is the top fundraising school in the history of LLS’s Michigan chapter. This marked the third consecutive year that Iroquois has been the state’s No. 1 donor, a title that previously belonged to another local institution: Shelby Junior High School.

McQueen visited Iroquois June 12 to present the school with an honorary plaque and a giant check showcasing its fundraising total. The check was put on display near the front entrance, and Dawson said that as students were leaving for the day, many of them took pictures of the check with their cellphones.

“We wanted this to be the culmination of everything that they had worked for over these last few weeks, so we were ecstatic for them,” McQueen said.

By devoting themselves so completely to a charitable endeavor like Pasta for Pennies, McQueen believes that Iroquois students were able to experience firsthand the value of community service.

“This program teaches kids an invaluable life lesson about setting a goal, developing a plan, and then following through on that plan,” she said. “They can take that lesson with them as they move on to high school, college and eventually to their career.”

McQueen added that LLS hopes to continue its strong relationship with Iroquois in the coming years. Dawson said that while she cannot guarantee that the school will reach the $25,000 mark again, there are already plans in the works to make its fundraising efforts even more efficient and enjoyable.

“We will do the best we can to keep this up because it has become something that the kids really care about,” she said. “We’re hoping to tweak things a little bit next year to make it a little more family-friendly. We want this to be an opportunity for the entire community to get involved with a really great cause.”

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