As soon as Deerfield High School School Chest chairs Graham Ambrose and Sam Gottstein announced the annual charity drive raised a record setting $135,393.17 for LUNGevity’s effort to fight lung cancer, the room erupted as though a championship was won.
Students and community members were hugging and cheering to raise money for the designated charity.
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“Absolutely,” Ambrose said when asked if the effort was akin to a team winning a championship. “We’re only (part of) the story,” he added referring to himself and Gottstein. “So many people put a lot into this. Every extra hour, extra evening made a difference.”
Gottstein gave credit to the community as a whole as well as the student body. Hundreds of people braved a December morning to run a 5K race or attend a dinner gala paying for the meal as well as purchasing items at a silent auction.
“This was not only a school effort but a community effort,” Gottstein said. “The number reflects that.”
Deerfield High School Student Activities Director Brian Verisario drew parallels between the new fundraising record and an athletic title.
“This is like a team winning a championship,” Verisario said. “So much has gone into this for months it is like a team being together.”
The effort led by Gottstein and Ambrose was overflowing with leadership on a number of levels. Each event like the Mah Jongg night, the race, the dinner, the competitions and more had separate chair persons in charge.
“This shows their leadership,” Faculty Advisor Ryan Rockaitis said of Ambrose and Gottstein. “They got (a lot of) people involved this year in a team effort.”
The team effort of everyone involved included community members Sue Bersh, Cathy Levitt and Jill Feldman who were there for the announcement. They have long been involved with LUNGevity and were continually lending a hand. Levitt’s son, Jake Levitt, was one of the organizers of the 5K.
Feldman, a lung cancer survivor, made it personal. “This gives me hope,” she said. “You have energized and educated the community.”