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Sunset Park 4th-graders brave heat to battle cancer

Above, students at Sunset park Elementary School rode bikes 69 minutes continuously to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Below, Am-la Leach and Zekgiah Brown dance during the fundraiser drive at Sunset Park Elementary School. Students had to donate $10 or raise a minimum of $10 in sponsorship funds to participate in the events.
Above, students at Sunset park Elementary School rode bikes 69 minutes continuously to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Below, Am-la Leach and Zekgiah Brown dance during the fundraiser drive at Sunset Park Elementary School. Students had to donate $10 or raise a minimum of $10 in sponsorship funds to participate in the events.

There was a massive dance and bicycling party at Sunset Park Elementary School Friday, but it wasn't just for fun.

Every student who signed up to dance or bike in the blocked-off parking lot had to raise $10 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The fundraiser, Sunset Park Trojans Attack Cancer, raised more than $3,000.

The event was planned and organized by fourth-grade students who had just learned about Westward expansion and the Oregon Trail. When the students heard about program teacher Cassie Cagle's family friend Zac Holford, who is biking across the country to raise money and awareness for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, they wanted to help.

"We wanted to raise money for this because we saw how Zac was riding his bike to raise money, and we decided it was a pretty cool thing to raise money for," said Clay Crews, one of the fourth-grade organizers.

Clay's classmate, Rachael Brechbie, said, "We're not going all the way across America, but we're still helping like he's doing."

Students chose biking, which is what Holford is doing, and dance, which they thought many people would enjoy, as their activities. Every student had to either donate $10 or collect donations to participate.

"I have a little job. I was asking people if they would like to donate some money," said fourth-grader Julian Shockley, who earned $30 by sweeping floors at a local barber shop.

A group of teachers rode bikes to school on Friday to show support for the benefit, Cagle said.

Holford, who telephoned the school and kicked off the event over the loudspeaker, said knowing what the students were doing gave him an extra reason to keep going.

"It motivates the heck out of me," he said. "Especially when it's really hard. My mom will call and tell me what they're doing and their progress. It really gets me going."

Holford started his journey in South Carolina on May 1 and will finish July 19 in Oregon. He is stopping along the way to talk to people about leukemia, lymphoma and the society.

Without Sunset Park's donation, Holford is almost halfway to his $15,000 fundraising goal.

Students looked happy as clams to brave Friday's heat, riding their bikes in circles around the parking lot and dancing their socks off in front of the school. They said organizing the event was more challenging than they thought.

"It was hard trying to plan it," fourth-grader Tinaiyah Chisolm said. "But when we broke up into groups, it wasn't so hard."

Want to help?

To donate money to Zac Holford's effort to help the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, visit www.active.com/donate/zacholford. To read about his trip across the country, go to www.zacattackscancer.blogspot.com

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