Bel Air Middle School might be the nation's top participant in the American Heart Association's annual Hoops for Heart fund-raiser.
Matthew Roseland, the energetic second-year physical education teacher who spearheaded this year's event, said the school won't find out for several more months how it ranks nationwide.
But he knows that last year the school raised $25,450 and placed third in the nation, behind North Attleboro Middle School in Massachusetts and Glenmont Elementary School in New York.
This year, Bel Air's grand total was $30,923, Roseland said. That sum might not be enough to put Bel Air past North Attleboro, which topped $70,000 last year, but it could give Bel Air a shot at second place.
Hoops for Hearts, a joint project of the American Heart Association and the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, combines physical activity with fund raising for the American Heart Association, a nonprofit agency that fights heart disease and stroke.
Bel Air has been participating for nine years, said Jeff Easton, the physical education teacher who originally brought the program to Bel Air. Each year, the event seems to get bigger and raise more money, he said.
Roseland, who led a team of eight physical education teachers on the project this year, went all out to turn the fund raising into a series of activities that were fun and promoted physical education.
All pupils who raised more than $15 were allowed to participate in three-on-three basketball games during their regular physical education classes, he said. The top three scorers in each grade then qualified for three-point shootouts in front of their classmates during a daylong series of assemblies.
Roseland also promised the pupils that if they raised more than $30,000, he would submit to having his head shaved by pupils. Other teachers made similar promises.
Physical education teachers Patrick Sears and David Clugh agreed to dress as SpongeBob and Santa Claus, respectively, while eighth-grade teacher Laura Silk promised to attend school with pink hair, eighth-grade teacher Becky Moreau said she would dress as a clown and sixth-grade teacher Beverly Lampke donned a McDonald's hamburger costume.
The assemblies, canceled twice last month because of snow, were held Wednesday. Each grade had its own assembly, which lasted 85 minutes and featured such silliness as visits from Santa Claus and Mr. Smoothie King, as well as lots of loud music and, of course, the actual basketball competition.
Originally, sports celebrities Melvin Mora of the Baltimore Orioles and Musa Smith of the Baltimore Ravens were to attend, but they couldn't appear on the rescheduled day, Roseland said. Still, Carlos Garcia of the Baltimore Blast was there. And several costumed mascots - including Poe from the Ravens, the Towson Tiger from Towson University, the Bel Air Bobcat from the high school and Ferrous, the mascot of the Aberdeen IronBirds baseball team - were there.
Several parents attended the assemblies and sat in the bleachers, some carrying cameras or camcorders.
"It's a great event," said Natalie Johnson, there with her husband, Doug, to watch their son Zack participate in the shootout. "This is his second year qualifying for the shootout," she said. "The kids get really involved and excited and it raises money for an awesome charity."
Many of the pupils who filed in for the assembly carried signs cheering on their friends, and a few wore T-shirts with the names of friends written on them in marker. When they arrived, the pupils didn't know that the $30,000 mark had been reached. Roseland made the announcement at each assembly, and the news got raucous cheers each time.
During the seventh-grade assembly, after Roseland announced that the $30,000 goal had been surpassed, he gamely walked to the middle of the gym and sat on a stool to allow the pupils to trim his already-short hair into a buzz cut.
The pupils who scored the most points in the shootout were: eighth-graders James Claypool, Britteny Collins, Scott Harrison, Maddie Salamone, John Stefanides and Brittany Dashiell; seventh-graders Adam LaFleur, Meghan Fennell, Zach Nadolny, Carlie Andrews, Gabe Macis and Marcela Ciappi; and sixth-graders George Karalekas, Jordan Hammon, Christian O'Neil, Anna Paszkiewicz, Mike Delinski and Lexi Duchesne.
The school also raised money for the American Heart Association with a wheelchair basketball game in February between the Maryland Ravens Wheelchair Basketball Team and the Bel Air Middle School faculty and pupils. Though the Bel Air team was spotted 50 points, it still lost 71 to 64. Admission to that event was $2 for students and $3 for adults.
But most of the money was raised through donations. Seventh-grader Chelsi Scheuerman, the school's top fund-raiser, collected $1,055, thanks to some help from her mother, father and uncle, who collected donations at work, she said. Last year, she was the top fund-raiser with the considerably smaller sum of $385, she said.
Her powers of persuasion seem to have grown since then. "My little cousin Ryan is about to turn 3, and he gave me $10," she said.