THS cheerleaders, dancers gorge on tater tots for a cause
For a time last week, Tonganoxie High School cheerleader Elise Drennan likely would have been content with never seeing another tater tot in her lifetime.
Drennan and other THS cheerleaders, as well as members of the Chieftain Stars, the school's dance team, went head-to-head in a tater-tot-a-thon competition.
The group that could eat the most Sonic tater tots in five minutes would be declared the winner.
Cheerleaders and dance team members collected pledge money from fellow students and area residents for the event, with proceeds going to the fight against breast cancer. October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
There were 25 tots per box, and Drennan clearly was the top tater tot consumer, as she made it to her fourth box. It was thought that she ate some 80 spud pieces in the allotted time.
"My stomach hurts a little bit, but I wish I could have eaten 100," Drennan said.
Before the eating contest started, THS principal Jamie Carlisle challenged Drennan. If she ate 100 tots, Carlisle would contribute $100 to the cause.
Although Drennan didn't hit the century mark, Carlisle improvised and donated $80, about the number of tots Drennan ate.
When crunch time came, Drennan shoved as many tots into her mouth as she could before time was up. After the event, she said "a few tots is fine," but eating about 80 in one sitting didn't taste all that great.
It didn't matter, though. It wasn't for the taste; it was for a good cause.
"It was a good cause, so I figured it was the least I could do," Drennan said. "And I know people with breast cancer, so you're really motivated for a good cause."
2006 was the first year for the event. Tonganoxie Sonic manager Charlie Krout said he had talked to cheerleading coach Sandy Saultz about breast cancer awareness fundraising. Saultz came up with the plan and the event now is in its second year. The first year, the cheerleaders had just one week to raise money.
This year, the dance team got into the act and both groups had about a month in which to raise money.
Some people gave donations, while others pledged a certain monetary amount for each tot consumed by a cheerleader or dance team member.
Carlisle asked superintendent Richard Erickson to be the official judge for the event. He said the cheerleaders were the winners in the tater-tot-eating contest. Carlisle later announced to the student body that both teams were winners because of their efforts in raising money for charity.
The actual amount raised is still unknown. Saultz said Monday she's still trying to determine how much money both squads raised but hopes to have a final count later this week.
Last year, the cheerleaders raised $600 for breast cancer awareness in about a week.
With more time to raise money and a joint effort with the dance team, Saultz is looking for the teams to shatter last year's fundraising mark.
"I'd love to double that, but I don't know whether we will," she said.
The event marked the first time the two teams have worked together on a charitable project, Saultz said.
The cheerleaders might have won the tater tot challenge, but more food is at stake when it comes to the actual fundraising.
Saultz said that the dance team and cheerleading squad had an agreement: The squad that didn't raise as much money had to buy pizza for the team that took in more funds.
The cheerleaders are working on another charitable drive this month. The group is collecting toys throughout November that will be delivered to children who are patients at University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kan. The drive is being called Cheers for Children.
Cheerleaders hope to again ask for toys to be donated to the cause outside the Bonner Springs Wal-Mart. Although the cheerleaders haven't gotten final approval, tentative dates are Nov. 25 and Dec. 2.
As with the tater-tot-a-thon, Sonic also got into the Cheers for Children act last year. Krout donated money for fleece blankets to be given to the elderly during the holiday season.
"I get chills when I think about it because it was such an awesome thing that they got to do," Saultz said, referring to the giving of toys to children. "I think they (the cheerleaders) felt like it was a worthwhile experience."