A Conant High School student's fundraising drive for a downstate high school whose community was ravaged by tornado last year comes to an end tonight when representatives from Washington High School arrive in Hoffman Estates to accept the larger-than-expected donation.
Joe Ranallo, who created "Conant Cares" as part of a class project, raised $15,000 with the help of classmates, family and the Conant High School community. Joe initially set out to raise $10,000.
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"When we exceeded it, I was ecstatic," the Conant senior said. "It was just amazing how everything fell into place."
Joe said he got the idea to raise money for Washington from a project assigned in late November for his class called Leadership for Life.
"We had a project that was to do a random act of kindness," he said. "I thought 'Why not do something for the students at Washington?'"
Assistant Principal Jerry Trevino said Joe, a member of Conant's varsity basketball team, identified with Washington High's football team, which was training for the state playoffs when a tornado ripped through their town Nov. 17.
"Joe was saying to me 'You're going to play in the state championships and then, oh my God, you have this to deal with?'," Trevino said.
His efforts started with fellow Conant students. He placed large empty water jugs in the school cafeteria for classmates to drop in donations.
"I thought I could get the whole Cougar family involved," Joe said.
It wasn't long before the fundraising drive had a presence at almost every school event or athletic game, Trevino said.
The effort also received a great deal of support from the local business community, Joe said.
Joe will present the check Washington High representatives, including Superintendent James Dunnan, at 7 p.m. tonight following a brief reception. After presenting the check, Joe will be suiting up for Conant's varsity basketball game against Barrington High School.
Joe said his parents have been his two biggest supporters.
"It all stems from my mom and dad," he said. "They help me out, and without them it wouldn't have happened."
And for anyone wondering what grade Joe received for his random act of kindness project that started all this, he says he got an 'A.'