Miracles happen: EVHS students raise $25K to make leukemia patient’s wish come true
Miracles happen, sometimes in as little as a minute, which is one explanation for Eagle Valley High School students pouring almost $5,000 into a great cause in one minute.
The cause is 7-year-old Scarlett Jones, who’s fighting leukemia, and winning.
Scarlett asked the Make-A-Wish Foundation for a Disney cruise, and Eagle Valley students set a $5,000 fundraising goal to send her and her family on their way.
At first, they worried, “How in the world are we going to raise that much money?” They didn’t need to worry.
They opened their Wish Week drive with The Miracle Minute. Students brought spare change to school. During the first minute of their Wish Week opening assembly, they raised $4,770.
Yes, you read that right. Teenagers donated $4,770 in one minute.
“The whole school came down to give as much change as they could. We made the goal and it hadn’t started yet,” said senior Sofia Aguilar, who helped lead the drive.
So far, the running total is closing in on $25,000 … in one week … and donations are still rolling in. At the Thursday, Feb. 15, closing assembly, kids were still running down onto the gym floor to give money.
“From the community support to the teachers, students and staff, it has been incredible. It has been humbling. The last two years, the whole Vail Valley has adopted her,” said Lance Jones, Scarlett’s dad.
Living with leukemia
Scarlett is a student at Eagle Valley Elementary School, loves horses and is living with leukemia. It’s personal for Eagle Valley students. Scarlett’s brother Dom and sister Isabelle are Eagle Valley High School students.
Lance and his wife, Taleen, know the exact date and moment Scarlett was diagnosed with leukemia — April 18, 2016, two weeks after the family moved to the Vail Valley.
Leukemia is a cancer of the blood. There’s no known reason why some people get it and the rest of us do not, Lance said.
Scarlett spent a month in Children’s Hospital getting treatment and then two more months of intense treatment. Now she’s on maintenance drugs and could be cancer free by the end of July, Lance said.
“She has defined what it’s like to fight and be a kid, even under the worst circumstances,” Lance said.
They still need to get some passports and some other documents lined up and then she’ll get to go on her cruise.
“She’s excited,” Lance said.
It takes a village
It takes a village to raise that much money that fast.
Aguilar said she was asked “very nicely” to take this on.
Aguilar called it “a stressful and wonderful experience.”
“The entire school got to be part of something bigger than themselves. We had the whole student council with us, along with the staff and student body,” Aguilar said.
They did things they know about … eating and playing.
They started with Burrito Monday, because burritos make people happy, and happy people are more likely to donate, Aguilar explained.
Instead of movie night, they held a dodgeball tournament, something Eagle Valley had not done in a few years. Sign up to play and you got free pizza.
“Kids love competition. They also love free food,” Aguilar said.
Registration was $2 per person with eight-person teams. Before you can say “head shot,” they piled up another stack of cash.
They were a little skeptical about Valentine’s Day grams, but it was a huge hit, even with the guy teachers. Local businesses donated roses, and students baked cake pops.
The student media program, EVTV, put together a video.
“They believed in this,” said Justin Brandt, one of the many faculty members who helped the students put this together.
They organized a school dance, solicited local businesses, held a fundraiser at a home basketball game … the list is long and exhausting.
“The kids did everything,” Brandt said.
It’s special in the way only these sorts of community efforts can be, Brandt said.
“Because it was not raised by a few big donations. Lots and lots of small donations added up in some big ways,” Brandt said.
Most people thought they’d be successful, but a few might have underestimated by how much.
A couple of teachers, for example, said they’d shave their heads if the students raised the astronomical sum of $15,000, apparently never thinking it could happen.
They did, and at last week’s closing Wish Week assembly, their long locks went under the shaver and obeyed the laws of gravity with missionary zeal.
More than 900 students in white T-shirts cheered as each strand of hair wafted to the floor, celebrating the miracle they were part of.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.