Matthew Busillo had hoped for $1,000 for Lamberton Middle School’s first Mini-Thon. The seventh-grade math teacher and adviser to the student council never anticipated he’d be looking at more than $13,000 for their first attempt.
A first attempt that only involved about two months of actual fundraising.
Lamberton students, staff and families celebrated Friday night their work at greatly exceeding any goals for the first Mini-Thon, to benefit Four Diamonds Fund and support pediatric cancer patients. The total $13,747 that was raised by Friday night was an astounding number to Busillo, who is now beardless and sporting a new bison tattoo in honor of the Thundering Herd, as part of a bet placed with students.
“We didn’t start (planning) until January, and didn’t start fundraising until the middle of February,” he said. “I had hoped to make a grand or $1,500. But it’s $12,000 in less than two months.”
It was a challenge that he hadn’t expected at the start of the school year. Initially, there weren’t plans for Lamberton Middle School to have a Mini-Thon this year.
That changed when Lamberton’s kitchen manager Laura Douglas brought up an idea.
The Four Diamonds Fund’s mission and work affected Douglas personally. Four years ago, her then high school-aged son was diagnosed with cancer, and the fund helped her family. She’s lived in and out of the hospital for 22 years, caring for her two sons affected by illnesses, but she said she is grateful to the Four Diamonds, even as her son continues his cancer treatment.
“For four years, all I could think of was how I could give back,” she said. “I had this vision for four years.”
Douglas is a fan of Zumba and wondered if she could rent the gymnasium to hold a mini-Zumbathon to benefit the Four Diamonds Fund. She was willing to organize it and pay to rent the space.
When she went to Lamberton principal Keith Colestock, however, those plans changed. Colestock and Busillo met and decided to leave it up to the student council about whether it wanted to take on a fundraiser.
With Douglas sharing her personal story to an unusually full student council meeting, the students voted unanimously in December to help her achieve her dream.
“My little dream that I had for four years is finally coming to fruition,” Douglas said. “It was overwhelming.”
Busillo said that instead of leaving it solely up to students to create their web page and raise money, Lamberton’s Mini-Thon included efforts from the school community.
Those efforts culminated in a school community celebration Friday night, where students were treated to a dodgeball tournament against teachers, a student versus faculty basketball game, face painting, Pixar movie screenings, a “puppy room” with adoptable pets and prizes for top fundraisers in the school.
With this year’s success, Busillo believes next year could be even better.
“Next year, we hope to be able to hit the ground running,” he said.
Douglas is looking forward to seeing that happen.
“I believe that this being our first one and how successful it was, more people will jump on board,” she said.