They set out to raise money but ended up raising spirits.Rochester’s three public high schools capped their annual holiday fundraisers this week. Each of them raised between $12,000 and $21,500. The high schools held separate celebrations Tuesday afternoon.
Century High School raised $21,500 for Ronald McDonald House and Bear Creek Services, which helps people with developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injuries.
Five people who live in Bear Creek group homes went to the school Tuesday for the celebratory activities, including a student-teacher dodge ball game, dance team performances and a tongue-in-cheek wrestling match between the Bear Creek Bear and the Century Panther.
It might have looked like nothing more than two teenagers wrestling around in mascot suits, but not to Julie Beck, executive director of Bear Creek. “This allows (the Bear Creek residents) to feel like members of the community,” Beck said. “All of the energy, all of the things the students are doing. In some ways, a few hours can change a lifetime.”
Jimmy, a non-verbal adult who lives in a Bear Creek home, showed his excitement once he spotted Santa Claus sitting with the Century band. Others residents joined in at different times, dancing with students who were performing on the gymnasium floor.
“It doesn’t occur to them that they are the only ones up there beside the students,” Beck said. “The kids don’t laugh at them. They laugh because of them, because of the innocence (of the adults).”
The giving continued in classrooms across town. Mayo High School raised more than $12,000 to benefit the Dorothy Day Hospitality House, and John Marshall High School students brought in $18,000 for Christmas Anonymous. Students from Lourdes High School also participated in Christmas Anonymous, which buys items for needy families during the holidays. Families shop at the Christmas Anonymous store, held at Christ United Methodist Church.
“It’s a really good feeling. It makes you feel good as a person,” said Rachinna Khan, a senior who helped organize the effort at John Marshall.
Keeping the mood light, Tuesday’s celebrations also including head shavings and pies in the face. A few JM students showed their commitment to the cause by waxing off patches of their hair. Khan said senior Will Hertel might have got the worst of it by choosing his chest.
“I think Will was bleeding a little,” Khan said, laughing. “I felt bad for him.”
Away from painful wax treatments and mascot fights, the outreach efforts show students what truly matters during the holidays, said Rita Hendrickson, director of campus ministry at Lourdes.
“It is important for young people to know what it’s like to serve another in need. There’s nothing like it,” Hendrickson said. “I think in a world, with our culture that is all about me, it is imperative to build the kingdom to say, ‘No. It’s about them.”