Sarah Pooler, the Senior Community Manager for the Lakeshore Division of the American Cancer Society announced in March that for the sixth consecutive year Zeigler-Royalton High School's Coaches vs. Cancer program has led all schools in Illinois for funds raised in support of the American Cancer Society.
In the six years of the group’s effort, they have raised in excess of $96,000.00 and expect to reach $100,000.00 during 2016.
The money raised comes back to the area in the form of a large variety of patient services and grants that provide test kits that help early detection. A variety of exciting research is also supported by the Zeigler-Royalton community’s efforts.
In addition to leading Illinois, Zeigler-Royalton has achieved at the national level, including finishing as high as seventh among all high schools in the United States.
These achievements are all the more remarkable when the school’s 160 student population and location in the second highest unemployment county in the state are considered.
One of the best outcomes has been that our students are learning the risk factors for cancer and are undertaking their own fundraising activities and are learning the meaning of selfless volunteerism.
Randall Risley, a thirty-plus year volunteer for Zeigler-Royalton athletics, was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association as a Friend of Basketball for his dedication to the program. He is equally dedicated to the school’s Coaches vs. Cancer program and has become the unofficial coordinator.
Randall spoke in detail about why the program has been so successful and means so much to the community below:
“The reason why we have been so successful is that this is a small community filled with caring people. The more unfortunate answer is that we have an extremely high cancer burden, among the highest in the state. Everyone in our community has a cancer story, in some cases a wonderful story of survivorship, but all too often a story of suffering and loss. The worst are the young ones who were, or were to be, Tornadoes. The people of our school district are highly motivated.
The pictures (below
) of our high school cheerleaders are from our 2015 Alumni Basketball game. Each of the girls wore a t-shirt in the color of a type of cancer that had had some kind of effect on them personally.
There is a picture (top
) of our Junior High cheerleaders holding our banner at the Junior High Girls' Basketball Coaches vs. Cancer game. We display the banner at our events, at other times it hangs in the gym with the banners we have received as recognition from the American Cancer Society.
The Junior High Girls’ Basketball Coaches vs. Cancer game is a perfect example of one of my favorite parts of our experience. In this case it was the girls (5th - 8th grade) who went to their coaches and asked to have a game in support of Coaches vs Cancer. They took the initiative and sought out survivors and arranged for flowers to present to the survivors. They wore shirts with the names of survivors or in memory of someone lost and sold t-shirts and special concessions.
We have one girl who wrote her college scholarship essay on her experience as part of Coaches vs. Cancer and several of our graduates have used Z-R Coaches vs. Cancer as the topic for speech assignments in college. We also have three young men who race sprint cars at a local track. This will be their fourth season of combining their passion for racing with supporting the fight against cancer. They solicit pledges for laps led and wins and sell t-shirts and decals. There are other examples of the positive impact the program is having on our young people. I believe we are seeing young people experiencing what it is to do selfless service and who will continue to volunteer for good causes on into adulthood.
We have named the Alumni Games in honor of Bennie Drust, our long time basketball scorekeeper. He is enshrined in the IBCA Hall of Fame as a Friend of Basketball and had kept the official score book at the State Tournament.
Very soon we will dunk that basketball to signify our having reached $100,000.00 total raised in support of the American Cancer Society’s mission.
I actually see what our community has done as being like six straight State Championships. State championships where there is no Class 1A, 2A, etc., championships where the team is everyone in our school district. State championships where the trophies are the people who are being helped through our efforts.
I truly believe that we are living our motto, We Are Z-R - We Fight Cancer.”