Watertown Middle Schoolers raised more than $29,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the most in the region and third most nationally, meaning the school was picked to appear at halftime of a New England Revolution soccer game with two students acting as honorary contacts.
Last week, two Revolution players – midfielder Kelyn Rowe and defender Darrius Barnes – came to give the students the good news.
"I love that we can celebrate your accomplishment," Barnes said. "It's wonderful what you have done."
Rowe got to tell the auditorium full of kids what they had won.
"I would love for you guys to come out to a game," Rowe said. "All of you are going to get to come on the field at halftime!"
In addition, sixth graders Stamati Papastamatiou and Chris Koufos, both leukemia survivors, will be honorary captains at the game and join the Revs for the coin flip before the game.
Each student will get two free tickets to the June 16 game against the Columbus Crew at Gillette Stadium. Other residents are invited to join the group, and $10 from each ticket will be donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Tickets can be purchased at this website: www.revolutionsoccer.net/LLSNight
Over the last nine years, Watertown has raised nearly $200,000 in Pennies for Patients. The school has finished first in the region, that includes Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, of the past nine years, said Eleanor Donato, a sixth-grade teacher who serves as the community service coordinator.
The school has been inspired, Donato said, by students past and present, and teachers, who have battled leukemia.
"The school has a real personal connection to leukemia," Donato said.
Besides the two students who are in remission, gym teacher Tom Johnson was diagnosed with leukemia and is in remission. The school lost two others to the disease - vice principal Peter Clough and math teacher Pat Stayn, to lymphoma.
Koufos and Papastamatiou helped inspired sixth-graders alone to raise $15,000.
"We had these boxes for people to put money in and put them in stores," Koufos said. He got help raising money from his twin sister Emily.
They also held fundraising events such as a student-teacher basketball game, a dodgeball game and homeroom competitions, said Principal Kimo Carter.
Carter congratulated all the students for WMS coming in first, but reminded them they had help.
"There was a lot of work done by everyone, not just by the school but by everone in the community," Carter said.