DENVER – A group of students from East Lincoln High School have come together to raise money in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) through its Students of the Year program.

“One of our local community members, Mr. (Danny) Eckard, his daughter actually passed away from leukemia,” team leader Hope Ketola said. “He came to one of the teachers here and told them about this fundraising competition through LLS, and then the teacher, Mr. (Jason) Dragoon, came to the AP Calculus classrooms to ask if there was anyone interested. A few of us then went to ask him more about the program, and we’ve been planning our fundraising event since.”

The LLS is near and dear to Eckard, whose late daughter, Miranda, passed away in 2014 following her battle with cancer. Miranda Eckard was diagnosed just two weeks into her freshman year at East Lincoln High School, and the Mustangs have been there for the Eckard family ever since.

“I had the honor of participating in an LLS fundraising event last year myself, and they told me about the Students of the Year deal and I knew we had to bring that to Denver,” Eckard said. “That’s kind of how it all came about, and for these students to agree to do this, and especially Hope for taking leadership, is just amazing. Cancer is something that affects us all nowadays, so for them to take the initiative to raise this money that may someday help their friends or future kids or grandkids through the research done by LLS to find a cure for cancer is just an amazing thing.”

Students of the Year is a philanthropic leadership development program for exemplary high school students. During the campaign, students foster professional skills such as entrepreneurship, marketing and project management to raise funds for cancer research.

The East Lincoln team consists of Ketola, her younger brother, Austin, Zach Smith and Sara Rhoney, with supervision provided by Dragoon and Eckard. The East Lincoln team is one of 14 in the Charlotte region vying for Students of the Year honors.

The students were approached with the idea in October, and worked on the basics of establishing the East Lincoln group to be ready for involvement at the start of the new year. Once assembled, the team decided to organize a rummage sale to help raise money to support the LLS.

“My family is actually moving some furniture around in our house right now,” Ketola said of the idea for a rummage sale. “We’re going through a bunch of stuff, and getting rid of a bunch of stuff, so it just came to me that maybe we could sell it to try to raise some money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. It was just good timing and seemed like a good idea.”

The team has been gathering items for the sale by visiting local businesses, and trying to spread the word through advertising. The items for sale will consist of clothing, furniture, books and miscellaneous items donated by the community.

The rummage sale is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, at 7482 Waterside Crossing Blvd. in Denver, across from the Sports Page restaurant.

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