High schools team up to dedicate charity week to late student

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published March 25, 2015

 The Rainbow Connection granted the wish of Rochester High School senior Gage Garmo, who died of cancer in mid-January, by facilitating a meeting with Eminem.

The Rainbow Connection granted the wish of Rochester High School senior Gage Garmo, who died of cancer in mid-January, by facilitating a meeting with Eminem.

Photo provided by The Rainbow Connection


ROCHESTER — Local high school students are turning their grief into action, following the death of Rochester High School student Gage Garmo — who died in January after a lengthy battle with cancer, just one day after The Rainbow Connection granted his final wish to meet Eminem.

Students at Rochester and Stoney Creek high schools decided to honor the RHS senior by partnering to donate all the proceeds from each school’s charity week to The Rainbow Connection — the charity that worked directly with the family and Eminem to make Garmo’s dream come true.

“The Rainbow Connection played a pivotal role in helping Gage meet Eminem, who was his lifelong hero … and we really just appreciated all the effort and all that they gave to our community, so we wanted to do our best to give back to them, as well, so they could pass along blessings like this to other kids,” RHS student council junior president Chris Russell said.

Kelley Cusmano, RHS teacher and student council faculty advisor, who taught Garmo for two years, said in a statement that he was admired for his courage and great spirit through his four-year battle.

“His story touched many people’s lives, including mine,” she said in an email. “Our council wanted to channel our grief into something productive, so we focused our charity week on supporting Rainbow Connection.”

RHS held its charity week from March 16-20, which included a spirit week where kids wore one color of the rainbow for every day, as well as fundraising events like “Coffee Hour,” where students sold coffee, tea and bagels. They also held pizza sales at lunch and games to get students excited about donating. For “Teacher Court,” students donated money to allow their favorite teachers to be named the king and queen of charity week. At the “Glow Dance,” students had to purchase a charity week T-shirt to get in.

“All in all, throughout the week, we were able to raise over $10,000,” Russell said.

The sale of over 25 raffle baskets during a celebrity server night at Ram’s Horn on March 23, after press time, was expected to bring in even more money for the charity.

“Everything that we get at the celebrity server night is just icing on the cake, above and beyond what we were hoping and expecting,” Russell said. “It’s a really successful year.”

Stoney Creek High School’s charity week, held from March 23-27, involved daily events, as well as T-shirt sales, raffles and donations via www.crowdrise.com/gagegarmo. Final fundraising numbers were not available at press time.

“We want to honor Gage Garmo and partner with Rochester High School to make dreams come true for other kids like Gage,” Skylar Garrett, charity week chair and a senior at Stoney Creek, said in a statement. 

The Rainbow Connection Executive Director Mary Grace McCarter said the fact that the two schools decided to raise money for The Rainbow Connection in honor of Garmo is particularly special. She said Garmo touched the lives of thousands of people, and this is one of the many ways that he continues to rock the world.

“It really meant a lot that they chose us,” she said. “I can really get upset just thinking about it.”

The dollars that the students raise and contribute, McCarter added, will have a direct and immediate positive impact on the lives of children in Michigan.

Founded in 1985 by Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, The Rainbow Connection is a nonprofit organization dedicated to granting wishes to Michigan children with life-threatening illnesses. It also provides support services, special holiday get-togethers and picnics, and college scholarships for “wish” children.

In any given year, The Rainbow Connection works with approximately 150 wish files. From spending time with Mickey Mouse at Disney World and seeing volcanoes in Hawaii, to visiting haunted castles in Europe and meeting the president of the United States, organizers said The Rainbow Connection has never turned a wish away.

For more information about The Rainbow Connection, visit www.rainbowconnection.org or call (248) 601-9474.