TAMPA – It's a ranking the students at King High School intend to keep.
For the last several years the school's Relay for Life event has been No. 1 in the state among its peers in money raised toward the fight against cancer.
Kelsey Oberbroeckling, chairwoman of KHS's 2014 Relay for Life – which kicks off at 3 p.m. March 22 and runs through 8 a.m. March 23 – is confident each member of the school's 52 teams is driven to reach this year's goal of $135,000, $11,000 more than was raised last year.
“Last year we also ranked 12th in the nation but I want us to be in the top 10 this year,” she said.
Oberbroeckling also feels secure in her ability to lead her 72-person committee – including planning co-chair Hannah Eriksson and production co-chair Madison Hamilton – plus the more than 600 other participants toward both ends.
“I think what makes King's so successful is because it's so personal, it's so much fun and the whole school gets involved in the event,” she said.
From a very early age Oberbroeckling, a Temple Terrace resident, has been exposed to what it's like to participate and organize Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society's signature annual event.
That's because her family has always made the annual Temple Terrace Relay for Life an important part of their lives and her father, Russ Oberbroeckling, twice chaired the event.
“I was 5 months old when my parents took me to my first relay in a stroller and I've been doing it ever since,” said Kelsey, now a junior in the International Baccalaureate program at King.
This year's theme is “Once Upon a Time in a World without Cancer” and each team has taken on the name of a fairy tale.
Vilas Ramachandran, a junior at King, is captain of the 15-member Team Tarzan, currently the event's leading fundraiser. The majority of the money raised, he said, has been from immediate and extended family members.
“One girl's family from India donated $100 to an American event, which is pretty cool,” Ramachandran said.
Team captain Ivette Cuadrado, also a junior, heads up the 10-member Aladdin Team, a group that's been successful in soliciting donations via car washes, Facebook posts and area churches, including Grace Family Church, of which she is a member.
“It's fun but more importantly, you are making a difference in someone's life,” she said.
King High's annual Relay for Life benefit concert featuring the school's Pride Show Choir is scheduled from 7 to 8 p.m. on Friday. Tickets are $5 each and may be purchased at the door. Cancer survivors will be admitted free.
Christine Munoz, the school's Relay for Life faculty adviser, said the event is expected to raise close to $3,000.
“King's strength has always been its diversity and relay is a perfect example,” Munoz said. “Because it is a student-led event you have students from a variety of socioeconomic, linguistic, religious and educational backgrounds working together and it's amazing to observe energy and creativity that produces.”
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.