Challenge raises more than money

She was kidding, right?

That's what six local high-school students thought one day last February, when Pastor Patrinell Wright called their names at the King Classic basketball tournament at KeyArena and told them they had been chosen for something called the "King Challenge." Take $500 in seed money and make it grow, Wright instructed them. Think beyond yourself.

These are two things nearly impossible for any teenager.

"I was completely surprised," Bainbridge High senior Charlie Fick, 18, recalled the other day.

To be honest, he said, Wright's timing was awful. Fick's basketball team was headed to the district tournament. He was buried in senior-year schoolwork. He considered giving the $500 to the student-body officers and letting them do the work.

But in the end, Fick turned his $500 into $6,000, and will deliver it himself to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. There he will see who — and how — the challenge money will help those still suffering after Hurricane Katrina.

In total, the students raised $16,419.34 from $3,000 in seed money given by honorary Seafair Queens, including Karen Moyer, wife of former Mariners pitcher Jamie Moyer.

"It's a great lesson," Moyer said. "And it reminds all of us that we still have big problems in our own country."

Laura Snowden, a sophomore at Holy Names Academy, didn't know where to begin.

"I had never seen that much money with my name on it," Snowden said. "I had no idea what to do."

A concert? The school said no. Raffle an iPhone? Didn't work out. An Xbox tournament? Too much.

After consulting with her parents and the youth group at her church, she decided to sell T-shirts bearing a rubber duck and the phrase "Hope Floats."

Snowden also held a "Dollar Day," on which she asked her schoolmates to donate $1.

In the process, Snowden learned to stand in front of a crowd, oversee a design, deal with a vendor, sort, sell and finally, count money — $1,800 in all. "I never saw myself as a leader, so it really made me step out of my comfort zone," Snowden said.

Randy Novak, one of the organizers of the annual King Challenge basketball tournament, said the seed money did much more than raise dollars.

"Students had a chance to see what they are made of, and help people," he said. "That's a huge win."

Fick started by writing a column for the Bainbridge Review newspaper, explaining his mission. That brought in about $1,000. He then sent the clipping and a request to family and friends, all the while asking everyone he saw to donate.

"I asked people that I didn't even know," he said. "I explained what the situation is in the Gulf Coast and how for a lot of people it is an issue that has come and gone."

His fundraising is not a huge sum, Fick said. But more importantly, "it has made me more aware of what's going on outside of my own little bubble."

Hope floats, indeed. Not just for the people on the Gulf Coast, but for the young lives we're building right here.

Nicole Brodeur's column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or

Time to burst your bubble.