Class Act

The fundraising efforts of Jamestown High School students may one day end up saving someone’s life.

Collectively, the student body raised more than $12,000 through its 2014 Battle of the Classes fundraiser – the proceeds of which have been donated to the Western New York Kidney Connection.

Hundreds of students, faculty and staff converged in the McElrath Gymnasium Thursday to celebrate the school’s 35th incarnation of the annual fundraiser, garbed in a variety of costumes as numerous as the individuals wearing them. The battle is a JHS tradition that pits each class against each other to compete in events such as tug-of-war, relay races, volleyball events, an art contest and a dance competition.

Despite the festive and competitive atmosphere, the Battle of the Classes is only the culmination of a monthlong fundraising effort, in which the school donates its earnings to a local organization. According to Tony Dolce, student organization adviser, the event has grown in popularity through the years, and has placed a rather large sum of money back into the local community.

“We’re closing in on probably about $300,000 since it started back in 1980,” Dolce said. “We’re now averaging over $10,000 every year.”

As the event became more lucrative over the years, Dolce said students now have to select the organization they will donate to from a pool of candidates.

“Each year, the student organization solicits organizations to come in and give a presentation. Then they usually make a determination based on need and other factors,” he said.

During a break in the action, a check in the amount of $12,500 was presented to the Western New York Kidney Connection. Accepting check on behalf of the organization was Jeanette Ostrom, founder and president.

“This is absolutely amazing, and I’ve never been more proud of these kids,” said Ostrom, who has also been an employee of JHS for several years. “The money’s going to stay right here in Chautauqua County, and what it means is that we can finally help someone who needs a kidney transplant find a living donor. And we can actually get that living donor here for the transplant, and help them with their expenses.”

Ostrom founded the WNY Kidney Connection in 2006, after she successfully found a live kidney donor for her son on matchingdonors.com, which is a national website. Ostrom then opted to start a regional version of the website to help other individuals in her community.

WNY Kidney Connection is a completely free service that allows area residents to share their story, and link up with live donors. For more information, visit www.wnykidneyconnection.org.

Dolce said the Kidney Connection is a worthy recipient of the funding.

“I think (the students) were surprised at the number of people in the JHS family that have benefitted from this organization, so they felt very strongly about giving back to help the people who support JHS alumni,” Dolce said.

Every year, the Battle of the Classes is held at the end of the week preceding spring break – which adds to the enthusiastic atmosphere.

“It’s just become a great tradition,” Dolce said. “The kids look forward to it each year. They love it, they enjoy it and it’s great for school spirit. I think it’s outstanding because they really enjoy going out and raising this money, and it teaches them to give back to a community that gives so much to them. Hopefully they can carry that through the rest of their lives.”