Hundreds of students donned cowboy hats and gathered inside the Deerfield High School main gym for the “Rodeo for Rory” dance marathon last month.
The fundraiser — organized by the DHS Warrior dance team and the school’s basketball program, with Highland Park High School’s poms and Jammers squads also in attendance — lassoed $22,000 for the Rory David Deutsch Foundation (RDDF) on March 17.
Rory, a Highland Park resident, died from an inoperable brain tumor in 1998 at the age of 7. Most RDDF funds are earmarked for pediatric brain cancer research. There is an endowment in Rory’s name at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, and there is a professorship in Rory’s name at Duke University.
All kinds of creative events have generated more than a combined $8 million for the RDDF since the Deutsch family launched the foundation nearly 20 years ago.
“It’s overwhelming that so many continue to support our efforts in Rory’s name,” said Rory’s father, Ross Deutsch, an assistant varsity boys basketball coach at HPHS.
DHS Warrior dance team coach Mollie Kaplan and DHS varsity boys basketball coach Dan McKendrick — a pair of math teachers at the school — served as faculty advisors. The annual dance marathon started at 6 p.m. and ended at 11 p.m.
“A bunch of very generous people helped make the night a special one,” said McKendrick, whose hoops staff includes one of Rory’s brothers, Robbie Deutsch. “What I found touching and meaningful was Ross and Mindy [Ross’ wife] getting together with the students before the event and helping them understand the foundation and explaining why they started it.”
Ross and Mindy’s nephew Noah was a member of Deerfield’s Class 4A sectional finalist basketball team in 2016.
Kaplan’s dancers invited McKendrick’s players to augment the fundraiser for the first time; the Warrior dance team had raised money for other worthy organizations in the event’s first two years.
In addition to each student setting up an online page for receiving donations via Razoo, auction items sold at the event included a signed Patrick Kane Chicago Blackhawks jersey, a VIP student parking slot at DHS and 20 tickets to view a White Sox-Cubs game from a Wrigleyville rooftop this summer.
“It was good to see kids doing something positive,” Kaplan said. “So many negative things are going on in the world today. Seeing the kids’ efforts to organize, seeing them all come together, was wonderful.
“Next year we’ll probably invite more sports teams at the school to join us and help us.”
Please visit roryd.org for more information about the Rory David Deutsch Foundation