Something special is happening this week at Royal Palm Beach High School.
Not to say special things don’t happen there all the time. But students, staff and teachers are pausing each day this week to honor those lost to and who continue to battle cancer, while raising money for the American Cancer Society.
Taking place at the same time each day, the Moment of Hope serves as a reminder and a call to action, Principal Jesus Armas said. Students “understand the moment and they understand the importance of the moment,” he added.
The entire school gets involved, with teachers and staff pushing students to organize into teams to get involved with the Relay for Life of Western Palm Beach County, the local version of the international one-day fundraiser that brings in millions of dollars for local services and research through the cancer society.
Students take the opportunity to get creative in raising money for a cause that hits close to home for many of them, Royal Palm High activities director, Student Council and class sponsor, and Relay coordinator Shannon Makowski said. They collect change — last year they raised more than $1,100 just in pennies, dimes, nickles and quarters — and host their own fundraisers.
The weeklong efforts culminate Friday in a lunch fair called Paint RPB Purple — and yes, there is a hashtag, #PaintRPBPurple. Each team is invited to have a table during lunch. They sell items or charge to take part in games. All of the money goes toward each team’s Relay fundraising goal.
“The entire courtyard, it’s just a sea of purple out there,” Makowski said.
Carmen Campbell, a longtime Royal Palm Beach resident who serves as the school liaison for Relay for Life of Western Palm Beach County, said Royal Palm is the only municipality in Palm Beach County that consistently has participation in the event from every school within its boundaries.
She hailed Armas and Makowski for making it the on-campus movement it now is. “Everyone is touched by it,” Campbell said of cancer.
Armas said seeing his students and staff — who volunteer their time and expertise to support the students — rally behind such an important cause has been a meaningful experience. Like so many others in his school’s community, his life has been touched by cancer: His wife was 16 when she lost her mother to the disease.
“As I’m walking that track, when I make that turn and I see that almost an entire side is from this school, I get a welling up of emotion and pride for our school and our kids,” Armas said.