Ugly legs, a beard contest and dancing until you drop: Sounds like an odd bet, but students in Montgomery County are finding creative ways to raise money in the fight against leukemia and lymphoma.
Last week students from Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda held a 5K race, the Red Rush. This week they are dancing from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the bRAVE. And in between they have found other more conventional ways of raising money — such as walking around the school cafeteria asking for spare change.
The Whitman students, along with students at 15 other Montgomery County high schools are competing to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through their Pennies for Patients campaign. The winning high school gets a pep rally hosted by Pepco and radio station Hot 99.5, and a summer internship for a student at Pepco.
Middle and elementary schools also are participating in the fundraising drive. In all, 130 county schools are participating in the campaign that runs February and March.
Crazy or fun, Pennies for Patients activities are profitable. Last year, 130 county schools contributed almost $435,000 to the society, Stacey Matusko, campaign specialist for the organization, said in an email.
“It’s a crazy month,” said Jenna Kantor, 17, a senior at Whitman. “It’s so much fun.”
Kantor is secretary of the school’s Student Government Association, which sponsors Pennies for Patients there. Last year, she said, her school raised more than $91,000, more than any other school in the nation. The goal this year, she said, is to raise as much money as the students can.
“You might think $91,000, let’s go for $100,000, but there is only a certain amount of money that we can raise, so we are just saying ‘as much as we can,’” she said.
While Whitman students plan their yard sale and a Battle of the Bands, ask their teachers to grow beards for money and even auction off junior and senior boys for dates, students at other schools are working hard to be the top winner, too.
Students at Poolesville High School also have an impressive list of activities scheduled, said Allison Wilder, an English resource teacher and National Honor Society sponsor. The Honor Society students organize the effort at Poolesville.
Wilder said the school has participated in Pennies for Patients for at least five years and the fundraising activities change from year to year.
“Last year we had a talent show but this year we will have Mr. Poolesville,” she said.
Ten male contestants will showcase their talents, do an interview and model sportswear and formal attire, she said. Community leaders will select Mr. Poolesville.
“It’s fun,” she said. “It’s a ticketed event and we expect to make between $2,500 and $3,000.”
Poolesville also is the school with an ugly legs contest, in which students and staff determine which male staff member or student has the ugliest legs. Voters donate money as their “vote” for one of the ugly leg photos. The owner of the legs that gets the most votes wears shorts to school the following Monday.
“Pennies for Patients is a service learning, character education and philanthropy program that gives students a unique experience making a difference through teamwork — working together to aid thousands of children and adults in the fight blood cancers like leukemia,” Matusko wrote in her email.
All the money from Pennies for Patients goes to research and patient services to fund the society’s mission to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma.