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When Sheri Shramek heard about the St. Jude Rally Against Childhood Cancer program, she knew she had to get involved.

The advanced art teacher at Clinton High School in Mississippi recognized the potential to involve students in an important cause. But she also had a personal stake in encouraging her school to join the St. Jude Rally program: Thirteen years before, she had lost a daughter to a brain tumor.

“She was 11 when she was diagnosed. She never went to St. Jude, but St. Jude created the protocol and told our doctors how to treat her,” Shramek says. “That’s the reason I jumped on this quickly.”

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Now in its third year, St. Jude Rally encourages high school students to support St. Jude. The program, built around a letter-writing campaign and school spirit, was tested in 45 schools, raising $300,000 its first year. In its second year, St. Jude Rally grew to 123 schools and raised $550,000. This year the number of participating schools is estimated to exceed 150.

The core of St. Jude Rally involves high school students sending letters to family and friends and asking them to support St. Jude. But most schools incorporate additional events to build excitement and raise more funds. At Clinton, students rallied a couple of months before their annual powder puff football game. They held “penny wars” among the classrooms, raffled Adirondack chairs decorated by art club students and sold St. Jude Rally T-shirts. At the school’s powder puff game, organizers announced that Clinton students had raised more than $32,000 in their first St. Jude Rally.

“It was amazing how involved and excited everyone got,” Shramek recalls.

Students at Edwardsville High School (EHS) in Illinois know just how motivated kids can be to help other kids fight catastrophic illnesses. EHS was the program’s top fundraising school last year and received the Jerry Nicholson Award from the ALSAC/St. Jude Boards of Directors and Governors.

At Edwardsville, the letter-writing event is held during the last hour of the school day, and last year 800 students crowded into the school’s common area to participate. “I thought kids would just want to get out of sixth period, but they take this seriously and are really sending out letters and raising money,” says Ellen Marty, president of the school’s Medical Careers Club, which plans St. Jude Rally activities.

For EHS Principal Norm Bohnenstiehl, the program not only underscores the school’s commitment to community service but also reflects his personal dedication to St. Jude. As a high school student in the 1960s, he participated in the Teen Marches that raised money for the hospital. “What better thing can you do,” he asks, “than help children with childhood cancer?”

To learn more about St. Jude Rally Against Childhood Cancer, visit www.stjude.org/rally .

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