BROOKSVILLE - Both the home and visitor team bleachers were lit pink during Friday's football game in the Bear's Den at Central High.
Students, parents and faculty partaking in the new rivalry between Central and Weeki Wachee high schools, given the recent creation of the latter, were able to steer their competitiveness in the direction of benefiting a common cause.
Hundreds turned out wearing pink in support of Central High School teacher Vicki Weaver, who has breast cancer, and Weeki Wachee principal Troy Labarbara, whose son has brain cancer.
"He's doing everything he can to help," Weaver said of Labarbara. "I have breast cancer, and that has a lot to do with why the kids are so in to it. They know. I'm real upfront with them about it, because I do have to miss some school from it."
Tables were set up where attendees could offer donations in support of treatment, and fans from both schools lit luminary bags reminiscent of Relay for Life rallies in honor of those known and unknown who are fighting the disease, including former students.
"All the local proceeds are going to a local cancer center," said Central High School health/science teacher, and 2013 Teacher of the Year, Beth Brooks. "In fact, we had to get another load of shirts. We initially did 225, and just got another 50, and if need be, go get more. And some of the kids are making their own."
One of Brooks' students approached her and presented the idea, she said. When Weaver found out, Brooks said, she came to Brooks to figure out who the student was and to thank them for an idea that the whole school has embraced.
"It allows students to see so far beyond them," Weaver said. "Some think of high school students as self-absorbed, but they're not, and 95 percent of them have great ideas."
The pink shirts have been for sale at both schools, Weaver said, and the two schools have been trying to outsell the other in their fundraising effort. Come Friday morning, Central High's hallways were full of students wearing the pink shirts, many of which had Weaver's name on the back.
"There was more kids in pink than not in pink," she said.
The school's Relay for Life team, "Weaver's Warriors," were also present during the football game Friday. Many are Weaver's students, she said, and her diagnosis has allowed her to incorporate more concrete lessons in the health course she teaches.
"In infectious disease, they want to know where cancer falls in that, but it doesn't," she said. "They want to know all these questions about cancer, how it's treated, how do you find it. They get real into it, and it's relevant to them, and this makes it even more relevant."