Students Use Prom to Raise Funds for Cancer-Stricken Teacher

Courtesy Savannah Bendik

When the students of Pine Ridge High School in Deltona, Fla., kick off their heels and dance at their Roaring '20s-themed prom this May, they'll know they have done so for a good cause.

The prom committee of the 1,700-student high school is leading an effort to raise thousands of dollars for a beloved math teacher, Charles Lundell, who was diagnosed in January with liver and lung cancer after beating throat cancer two years ago.

"It wasn't if we were going to raise money, it was how much money we were going to raise," junior class president Sierra D'Errico told

D'Errico and her fellow prom committee members - Savannah Bendik, Nick Sutton, Katie Buday and faculty adviser Brenda Burgett - decided to use whatever they raise in ticket sales on this year's prom, and donate everything else to Lundell.

So far, that has resulted in more than $7,000 raised, with donations still pouring in daily.

"The response has been fantastic, not just from the school but community," D'Errico said. "People are calling us everyday offering to help.

"It gives people a different impression of this generation," she said of her and her classmates' efforts.

The teens have raised money through fundraisers like a "Dancing With the Teachers" event, a students-versus-teachers basketball game and a T-shirt sale.

Normally, that money would be paired with the approximately $13,000 typically made in ticket sales to dress up the Daytona 500 Club, where the prom will be held, but not this year.

"Decorations are just decorations," junior class activities director Nick Sutton said. "We'll just spend whatever comes in from the tickets."

Lundell, who has taught at Pine Ridge since the school opened 20 years ago, is the father of two teenage children and is also expecting twins with his wife, Melissa, in June. The students said the faculty came together to throw the Lundell a "diaper party" to make sure they have all the supplies they need.

"Once you come to Pine Ridge you're family," D'Errico said. "We're just focused on him getting better and, hopefully, we can do as much as we can for him."

Lundell, who could not be reached today, is on a leave of absence from teaching while he undergoes chemotherapy treatments, but is staying in touch with his students.

"He's more than thankful," D'Errico said. "He's always sending emails saying, 'Thank you so much,' and 'I don't deserve this.'"

The prom committee has not set a goal for how much they want to raise for Lundell because they don't want to be held back.

"We are reaching for the stars," junior class secretary Savannah Bendik said.