It's not every day you see a bright red, polka-dotted toilet seat on display in a yard around Purcellville.
However, a group of Loudoun Valley and Woodgrove high school students have teamed up for an intensive seven-week program to raise money and awareness for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and the red toilet seat with “cancer stinks” is traveling around town as part of their campaign.
Team “LoCo on Cancer” is participating in the 2019 Students of the Year Program sponsored by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. High School students from around the country participate in a fundraising competition with a goal of reaching $50,000. There are 40 other teams in the Washington, D.C. area who are vying to see who will raise the most money between Jan. 10 and March 2.
If Team LoCo reaches its goal, the students will dedicate a childhood cancer research grant in the name of their friend and classmate Sara Willis, who passed away in November 2018 after a long battle with brain cancer.
The team is led by three captains -- Trae Ballinger, Makenzie Robinson and Nick Van Zandt.
Additional team members include Ashlyn Cool, Riley Draddy, Kaitlyn Money, Hunter Robinson, Sarah Rubin, Ryan Ruscitella and Antwoin Stokes, Jr.
Makenzie Robinson was inspired to launch the project after helping her mother, Tracy Robinson, who battled ovarian cancer and was honored three years ago as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's “Woman of the Year” after raising just more than $100,000.
Makenzie Robinson helped her mom with fundraisers over the years and wanted to do a project of her own. She brought together the other team members in November, and they have been meeting regularly to plan events and strategy.
“It's all about being selfless and inspiring others to be a generation of change. We all want to make a difference,” Makenzie Robinson told the Times-Mirror.
Co-Captain Trae Ballinger said he was inspired to participate after he learned that only 3 percent of money spent on cancer research is spent on childhood cancer research.
“This made me want to make a huge change to that statistic. If we reached our goal it would personally mean the world to me knowing we are able to put a childhood cancer research grant in Sara's name," Ballinger said.
The team has a Facebook page with links to each of the events. In addition to the toilet seat, which is moved from house to house each night after the homeowner donates to the cause, there is a paint night in Purcellville on Feb. 2, a Bingo night at Harpers Ferry Brewing on Feb. 7, a jewelry party at Kendra Scott in Reston on Feb. 9 and an afternoon gaming event at Dragon Hops on Feb. 9.
“It has been amazing to watch how they have grown personally and professionally together, I am so proud of them,” Tracy Robinson said.