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Amherst Regional students raise $5,000 for Cooley Dickinson Hospital Cancer Center

As spectators, they also got to see their principal, Mark Jackson, dye his hair pink for a day after he failed to win a basketball shooting contest.

More importantly, though, the students were part of events that served to raise both awareness and money for the ’Canes for a Cure fundraiser, a Future Business Leaders of America program in its fourth year.

The program concluded with a $5,000 donation being made Thursday to Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s Cancer Center.

Mary Ellen Walsh, director of the Cancer Care program, was on hand to receive the oversize check and praise the students for their work.

“What you’re doing really, really, really boils down to helping someone in your community,” Walsh said.

She said the money can be used for special purchases such as buying Christmas presents for the family whose father is battling cancer or buying a favorite soda for the patient who can’t get the drink at the hospital.

James Kirwan, co-president of the club that meets after school and is advised by Missy Shea, said this was the most successful year yet.

The 35 members of the club went to Amherst businesses and got 24 sponsors to commit $100 each to put advertisements on the back of the T-shirts.

They then solicited students to make designs, with 25 submitted and the winning entry, submitted by Lucas Harrington, showing the name of the fundraiser, with a ribbon and a silhouette basketball player driving toward the hoop.

The 250 shirts sold for $10 each, with students and faculty quickly buying them up.

Kirwan explained that basketball has been part of the fundraiser since it began. “We included athletics with the fundraiser,” Kirwan said. “How can we increase fun and attendance?”

Students who bought the T-shirts can go to two games for free while wearing them.

During the program, which began in November and extended through February, FBLA members handed out cancer facts flyers during lunch periods, read messages over the school’s intercom system and raised awareness about cancer screenings.

Emma Kolchin-Miller, a junior and FBLA vice president, said raising money for ’Canes for a Cure is important to her.

“This is my favorite FBLA endeavor because I honestly care about it,” Kolchin-Miller said. “We can see where our help really goes and that’s why we get so much support from students.”

Shea said the program began four years ago as she saw more sports teams engaged in promoting awareness and bringing in money to help conquer the disease. This could be incorporated into the FBLA program, she said.

Shea said this gives students real world experience in soliciting from local businesses and represents giving back to the Amherst community, which started about a decade ago with staff appreciation breakfast.

The connections with Cooley Dickinson have become so important that the hospital nominated the club for the 2012 Outstanding Young Philanthropist/Fundraiser Volunteers of Hampshire County from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Western Massachusetts Chapter.

Georgia Moore, director of leadership and gifts at Cooley Dickinson, said the hospital wanted to recognize their efforts.

“They’ve learned life lessons through this program,” Moore said.

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