- February 9, 2018
Southside Elementary School was a sea of gold at its Childhood Cancer Awareness pep rally on Friday. Students wore gold shirts, bandanas and beads to represent Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
The pep rally was a culmination of the fundraiser for Benjamin Gilkey Fund for Innovation Pediatric Research, which collected change in gold hats throughout the school. In its third year, the fundraiser has expanded from Southside to 23 Sarasota schools and several restaurants and businesses in the area.
The fundraiser is in honor of Benjamin Gilkey, nicknamed Benji the Brave, who was a third-grade student at Southside when he died from leukemia in 2017. The event also recognizes Avery Rann, who died from childhood cancer as a first-grader in 2017.
"When [students] come and ask me questions about Benji, they're not afraid [because] they truly want to know, and I see that empathy building in them," said Laura Gilkey, who launched the fund in her son's honor. "When [Benjamin was sick] his friends wanted nothing more than to make him feel better. So I think [the students] can really put themselves in those kids' shoes who lost two kids in the same semester and then try to do something about it."
Southside collected $8,700 from the fundraiser and an additional $2,700 from selling black T-shirts with the message, "Go Bold, Bo Bold" in gold which surrounded a gold ribbon. The proceeds will go to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Institute. Proceeds from the rest of the participating schools are still being counted, according to Gilkey.