At a football field in Tampa, Fla. last night, more than 600 high school students gathered to honor two classmates allegedly murdered by their mother in January.
The students of King High School camped out overnight in an effort to raise $150,000 for the programs and services of the American Cancer Society. From the signs lining the parking lot to the T-shirts worn by the cancer survivors who attended the event, the home of the Lions was painted in purple as the school hosted its sixth annual student-run Relay for Life.
This year's Relay for Life was dedicated to the memory of former classmate Calyx Schenecker, 16, and her younger brother Beau, 13. In January, the siblings were allegedly fatally shot by their mother, Julie Powers Schenecker. The Florida mom has pleaded not guilty to two first-degree murder charges and is being held without bond in Hillsborough County.
At the time of the shooting, Calyx was a sophomore and working hard alongside her classmates and teachers to raise money for the American Cancer Society, an organization friends said she passionately supported.
Calyx, remembered in the community as a devoted friend, classmate and teammate, had been named captain of one of the school's 50 relay teams. Members of her team, Wizarding Independence Day, chose to keep Calyx as their captain to honor their friend's dedication to helping others.
Marge Terp and Emily Kolilas, both 17, who were selected as chair and co-chair of this year's Relay for Life, told ABC News it is important for them to honor and remember Calyx the way she would want to be remembered.
The girls said dedicating this year's event to Calyx and Beau is a good way for the children's family and friends to come together.
At 10 o'clock Saturday night, the lights at the stadium went dim and all participants and visitors took part in a Remembrance Ceremony for Calyx. Blue and green luminarias with photos of Calyx and Beau lined the football field. Army Col. Parker Schenecker, the children's father, joined members of King High School PRIDE musical group on stage where the choir put to music a poem that one of Calyx's friends had written in the lost teen's memory.
In the rare appearance, Schenecker addressed the students and community and presented the American Cancer Society with a check for $5,000. The donation was the first contribution to be made on behalf of the Calyx and Beau Schenecker Memorial Fund.
"It was very important for Parker that the first donation be made to an organization that Calyx loved so much," Schenecker family spokeswoman Lisa Eichorn told ABC News.
In his remarks to the students, Schenecker urged them to be proud of their accomplishments.
"Calyx and Beau are beaming with devotion and respect for you," he said.
Schenecker said the tribute touched his family and shows that the school community understands how to love and be loved. In a closing question, he asked the crowd of hundreds if they had ever felt true joy.
He then invited all to participate in a Harry Potter-themed Remembrance lap in memory of Calyx and Beau.
"If we turn this sad time into a joyful memory, then their memory will live on through all of us," Schenecker said.
Each of the school's 50 Relay for Life teams set up and decorated campsites on the football field to reflect their team's name. Students sold food, drinks and arts and crafts from their campsites throughout the day and night to continue their fundraising efforts.
Just before opening ceremonies on Saturday, Wizarding Independence Day had raised $11,000. The team's goal is to be this year's top-fundraiser in honor of Calyx.
If you would like to learn more about the Calyx and Beau Schenecker Memorial Fund please contact:
The Calyx and Beau Schenecker Memorial Fund within The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay 550 North Reo Street, Suite 301 Tampa, FL 33609-1037 813.282.1975