A Look Back: What a Week!

Athens students Ellory Thill and Elise Leverenz reveal the Charity Week fundraising record! (photos by Darrel Ellis)

Soon, district seniors will fly to their favorite Spring Break destinations. We’re not sure the seniors at Athens will need a plane, though. The Class of 2017 and the rest of the Red Hawks are still flying high from pulling off the seemingly impossible during Charity Week.

“Just look at that total,” senior Ellory Thill said with tears streaming down her face as she motioned to the paper banner that read: $155,416.35. “How does that happen in one week? I don’t know. It’s insane.”

Not a dry eye in the Athens gym after the big reveal


The joyous mob scene immediately following the big reveal at Athens.

Insane is a good word.  So is unbelievable, astounded, crazy, amazing, and shocked.

“I didn’t believe it, I didn’t believe it, I didn’t believe it,” said Camille Bedford trying to catch her breath immediately after the big reveal on the last day of Charity Week. “This is amazing. The amount of school spirit that we have, it’s amazing.”

Amazing and spirited. There you have it. This is who the Red Hawks are.

What a week.

From February 4 through February 10, Athens again turned itself into a fundraising machine for its annual Charity Week, which has been raising tens of thousands of dollars for charities for over 30 years. But this year it was personal. Jenna Kast would have graduated this year, but she died from brain cancer at age 11. Students raised money for the ‘Jenna Kast, We Believe in Miracles Foundation,’ which gives children facing a life threatening illness a second miracle wish.

Jenna Kast

“This community, this school, and the love that they have, it’s just remarkable to me,” smiled Jenna’s mother Paula Kast, who said the Foundation will now be able to double the number of wishes thanks to the over $155,000 Athens raised.

“It’s really special do this in memory of her,” said Joey Stark, who was Jenna’s classmate and friend at Wass Elementary. “Jenna Kast was one of those people who, when you met her, you knew that you would never forget her spirit. You never forget her attitude.”

The Charity Week “Teacher Dance Battle” brought in a lot of donations…
…the “Mr. Athens” contest racked in the donations too

Five thousand dollars raised during Charity Week is going to help Athens sophomore Caroline Mayme, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in December. She’ll have a wish granted from Jenna’s foundation.

“It’s good to know people are behind me, praying for me,” said Caroline. “I never expected this to happen to me.”

Athens sophomore Caroline Mayme delivers a heartfelt message to her school during the pep assembly on February 10, 2017.

Charity Week began with a bold goal to raise $100,000 for Jenna’s foundation.

“I thought that was crazy,” said Jared York.

But the money gushed in from corporate sponsors, school staff, the community, and, of course, from the students.   The students. Ah, the students. They were the stars. They stepped up and reached deep. They turned their school into a fundraising machine, organizing, participating, and donating money for events, including “Mr. Athens,” “Teacher Dance Battle,” “Jail-n-Bail,” “Volleyball Tournament.”

“Our kids are amazing,” said Athens Principal Dr. Lara Dixon. “They did it from their heart; for their friends, and for every little kid in Michigan who is struggling. For Caroline, for Jenna, for all those who need our help and hope. I love our kids.”

“This is the best of what we can do as students,” said Mitch Wochoski. “This is the best of what we can do together.”

The donations and counting seemingly never stopped during Charity Week 2017.


Jenna’s mother Paula Kast reacts as the school record fundraising amount is revealed for her daughter’s Foundation.

It was every suspense film you ever watched the final days of Charity Week, every thriller you read, every nervous waiting room you ever sat in all rolled into one nail-biting, Charity finale at the pep rally, 1500 exhausted students, clicking their smartphones for pictures to make sure they would never forget. And finally, a few minutes after 2 o’clock, Ellory Thill, Elise Leverenz, and Julia Lower started gently unveiling the total, and then one final rip!


Students rushed the gym court, raised their arms in triumph, and the whole thing seemed so surreal.

“What were you thinking the moment you saw the $155,000 being unveiled?” senior Katie Prebelich was asked.

“Honestly?” she answered.   “I had to do a double take. I said, wait…this…$155,000? No way!”


On we go. Charity Week 2018 can’t come fast enough.

After the tears of joy dried up, all smiles here. They did it for Jenna.


More photos..

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