WASHINGTON -- This school year, it's personal. That's why the student council at Washington Community High School decided to devote its annual fundraising effort to brain cancer research.
Kevin Brown and Polly Fuller, two beloved teachers at the high school, underwent brain cancer surgery in recent months. Brown has returned to work after taking a leave of absence. Fuller is still on a leave of absence.
"We pick an organization to help each year, like St. Jude Children's Research Hospital," said Ella Boston, student council president. "This time, the choice was easy because it was personal."
As of Saturday, Boston said, student council's fundraising efforts had generated $3,668.
A dodgeball tournament that pitted nine eight-student teams against each other Sunday in the high school's west gym was the latest fundraiser. Each team donated $24 to compete, with the winner earning an opportunity to face a team of staff members Friday at the high school's annual winter assembly.
Brown is a physical education teacher who has been the Washington boys basketball coach since 2004. He's won more than 300 games in charge of the Panthers and was inducted in May into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association's Hall of Fame.
Fuller is a Spanish teacher. She's taught at the high school for 13 years.
"I'm overwhelmed by the support our students continue to show for Kevin and me," she said. "I love and miss them very much. Hopefully, their efforts to raise money for brain cancer research in our honor will help cancer patients in the future."
Jeff Little, student council sponsor along with Melissa Warfield, said student council's fundraising efforts this school year in honor of Brown and Fuller remind him of what Washington high school students did in the aftermath of the November 2013 tornado that devastated the city.
"Just like this year, our students stepped up big time five years ago to help people in need," Little said, recalling post-tornado efforts like helping clear debris from homes destroyed or damaged by the EF-4 twister.
Boston, a senior who has been on the student council all four years she's been at the high school, said fundraising normally hasn't been a major focus for the student council.
"It seems like it's always pushed aside for other things," she said. "But we've really spent a lot of time on it this school year, trying to think of creative ways to raise money."
All of the student council's fundraisers in honor of Brown and Fuller are new, or new ways to raise money.
Light gray wristbands with KB Strong and Fuller Fuerte (Spanish for "strong") written on them are being sold for $2 at the concession stand at home boys and girls basketball games. Light gray is the color for brain cancer research. About 1,200 wristbands were ordered and about 200 remain, Boston said.
The $1 admission cost for the annual homecoming week community night and profits from the annual homecoming dance this fall were donated to the cause, as were sales of T-shirts ($12) and photos of Washington boys basketball players and coaches ($1) at this past Friday's home game vs. Dunlap.
A fundraiser will be held Monday at the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in East Peoria and events are being planned for a fundraising week in March, Boston said.
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.