The school, located at 700 Old Mountain Road, had raised more than $8,600 during its annual drive to assist the Rally Foundation, a charity that was started in response to the case of William Olson, a Walton High School graduate who eventually lost his 10-year battle with cancer this May. Jennifer Dawson, a Lost Mountain social studies teacher and sponsor of the school’s Helping Hands club, said most of that money was raised as kids came into class on Friday morning. Of the funds, more than $970 was in coins, Dawson said.
“That’s kids donating their piggy bank,” she said. “That’s kids convincing families to give their change.”
The fifth annual fundraiser kicked off with a parade around Turner Field before the Sept. 24 Atlanta Braves-Miami Marlins game. Dawson said the idea for the march, in which 1,000 students wore T-shirts and carried a banner in support of the Rally Foundation, came after a discussion with the school’s bandleader.
Dawson planned to do the fundraiser the last week of September, but a potential conflict arose when she learned the band would be playing the national anthem before the game, possibly meaning there would be too much going on at the campus that week. Instead, the school used the event as a way to gain publicity for the cancer cause.
“(The band leader) said, ‘That’s great, maybe we can combine it,’” Dawson said.
From there, the school had a cancer fundraiser at the west Cobb Dairy Queen, in which the restaurant donated 20 percent of its Thursday proceeds, or $565.08, to the Rally Foundation. Dawson said the promotion was a huge success.
“They had to go to another store to get chairs and tables,” she said. “There still weren’t enough.”
Most of the money was raised on Friday, when students lined Lost Mountain’s halls with buckets seeking donations, while others gathered around a big blue suitcase in the school atrium, encouraging kids to donate there. Dawson said she uses one of her three annual personal days to manage the excitement, letting a substitute teach her students.
The fundraiser started as a project of the Helping Hands club in 2008 after Tyler Copley, a student Dawson taught years earlier in her first year at Lost Mountain, died of cancer. While Dawson was still devastated over that news, another student, Alexa Rohrbach, was hospitalized with cancer a week after starting at Lost Mountain.
The initial fundraiser, which brought in $2,000, was intended to help bring in money for Alexa’s battle with cancer, but she died at 11 the night after Thanksgiving in 2008.
But that didn’t stop the quest for Lost Mountain to raise money for the Rally Foundation, with the amount they raised increasing each year. In 2009, Dawson said they raised $5,500; followed by $6,000 in 2010 and $6,200 last year.
She was hoping to bring in even more this year with some late donations.
Dawson said raising money to fight childhood cancer is needed, because less than 5 percent of the American Cancer Society’s money goes toward childhood illness, while only 3 percent of federal cancer funding is aimed at childhood diseases.
Lost Mountain led national middle schools in money raised for the Rally Foundation last year. Dawson said that’s not bad, considering she was once told that the Rally Foundation’s program is suited better for high schools than middle schools.
“I took that as a personal challenge,” she said.