EDMOND — Edmond North High School students raised the bar again this year for the school's annual BALTO (Bring A Light To Others) weeklong charity fundraiser.
This year, students set a goal of $225,000 to raise for the March of Dimes Family Support Program for parents of premature infants.
Students picked that amount because they like a “challenging number,” said student council sponsor Brian Hunter.
The students exceeded their goal with a total of $296,720.
The amount is the most ever raised during BALTO.
“We have a steady tradition of raising more each year than the last and this year was no exception,” Hunter said.
“BALTO is more than just a week here at Edmond North High School; it's a tradition and a way of life. Most of all I would like to thank the students,” Hunter said during Friday's assembly to announce the total amount raised.
This year's three co-chairmen interviewed representatives of 10 charities before settling on the March of Dimes program, said co-chairman Allyson Cain, a senior.
The March of Dimes Foundation offers a variety of services to parents of infants that need intensive medical services, Cain said. It educates parents about their children's needs and gives them a variety of support while their babies are in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Belinda Rogers, state director of programs and government affairs for March of Dimes in Oklahoma, said the money raised by the students will allow the organization to serve more families with premature babies who require advanced help.
So far, the only such March of Dimes program in Oklahoma is at Mercy Oklahoma City, but the organization hopes to take it to other hospitals, Rogers said.
Cain, who plans to go to Oklahoma State University to study speech pathology, has been involved in BALTO Week all through high school. Through working on BALTO, “I have learned so many life lessons,” she said.
All three of Edmond's high schools hold fundraisers each year for different charities, but they also pick a “common thread” charity, which gets 5 percent of the money raised. This year's Common Thread is A New Leash on Life, which provides assistance dogs to people who need them, Hunter said.
The group trains dogs to assist people with disabilities, therapy dogs to visit the elderly and children learning to read or in therapy, and companion dogs who are rescued from shelters and trained by prison inmates, according to the group's website.
Last year, North surpassed its goal of $201,200 to raise $285,145 to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
This year's fundraising activities at North have included:
• Gathering of pledges by “candidates” from each class.
• A “Boy Bands” competition.
• A bake-off.
• A black light dance.
• Competitions pitting classes and boys and girls against each other.
• DECA fashion shows.
• Sale of T-shirts and food.
BALTO Week, which started in 1995, takes its name from Balto, a husky who led a sled dog team to deliver lifesaving diphtheria medicine to Nome, Alaska, in 1925. Edmond North's mascot is a husky.
Contributing: Staff Writer Nasreen Iqbal