Southside Elementary was surrounded in gold as students and families showed their support for the school's annual Going for Gold fundraiser.
The fundraiser supports the Benjamin Gilkey Fund for Innovation Pediatric Research, which was started in honor of Benjamin Gilkey, a third-grade student at Southside who died of leukemia in 2017. The event also recognizes Avery Rann, a first-grade student who died from brain cancer in the same year.
Students wore gold shirts, shoes, headbands and even face masks in support of the fundraiser. Throughout the day, change was collected in gold hats placed throughout the schools.
Roscoe Rann, Avery's younger brother, is now a fourth grade student at Southside, and he said he was proud to participate in the campaign.
“I am happy that they are giving money to childhood cancer because I think all the kids should live a long and happy life," Roscoe Rann said. "I miss my big sister Avery who died from brain stem cancer. I wish she could be here. Go Gold!"
In its fourth year, the fundraiser has expanded from a Southside event to a national campaign. Other Sarasota schools and businesses in the area also participated in the event.
All proceeds from the event will go to Johns Hopkins All Children's Cancer Center and Blood Disorders Institute. The campaign has raised $771,244 to date.
Southside Principal Jennifer Nzeza said she's happy to see the campaign go nationwide, and is proud that Southside played a small role.
"It just speaks to the impact that one boy and one family has had on such a large scale," Nzeza said. "It makes us so proud to be a part of that movement."
The event normally culminates in a pep rally where students are told how much money was raised, but due to social distancing, the pep rally was not possible this year. Instead, students were invited to take pictures with a sign or with a ribbon created of sunflowers in front of the school.