When the varsity hockey team at Billerica Memorial High School in Billerica, Mass., was brainstorming ways to help a young pee-wee hockey player with leukemia, they came up with the typical fundraising ideas like a 5-K race.
Then, one of their teammate's father, Glen Corbett, came up with an idea that would both affect the teens and be a surefire way to get adults to donate money: take away the teens' cellphones.
More than 100 students at Billerica Memorial Thursday handed their cellphones over to police officers who will keep them in a safety box for 30 days to raise money for "Celling Out for Leukemia."
"It's unbelievable," said Corbett, whose son, Brian, is a sophomore. "Phones are still coming in. The kids know they're paying it forward."
Corbett's son and his teammates first got to know the 12-year-old for whom they are raising money, Ian Candee, through the town's local hockey association. When they learned of his battle with leukemia, they made Ian an honorary captain of the school's varsity team and had him to throw out the puck at a game.
"He's awesome," Corbett said of Ian. "I told the kids, 'Let's do this so he's back here in two years.'"
Ian was at the high school Thursday for the "Celling Out" kickoff as students signed a permission slip and handed their phones over to the Billerica Police Department, who will keep them in a safety box at police headquarters until May 16.
With the extra time the kids will have on their hands with no phones to Facebook, tweet and SnapChat, they are asked to get family, friends and businesses to sponsor them for each day they are without a phone.
"People are just blown away that a kid would give up their phone for a day, much less 30 days," Corbett said. "Kids are turning in huge donations of $1,400, $2,500, as much as $3,000."
The hockey team hopes to raise at least $120,000 in the next 30 days. Corbett plans to meet with the Candee family, who have two other kids in addition to Ian, to determine how the money will be donated.
The Dana Farber Children's Hospital Cancer Center in Boston, where Ian is being treated, could be a potential recipient, or the funds could all go to the Candee family to help defray expenses.
"I'm going to see where they are and how they want us to donate the money," Corbett said.
While most of the students were expectedly apprehensive about losing their phone for 30 days, Corbett says he heard from some teens who quietly said they were excited for the chance to disconnect.
"I had one member of the girls' hockey team text me and say, 'Mr. C., I can't wait to give my phone up. No one can reach me for 30 days,'" Corbett said.
"We're going to have the kids keep a journal of what it's like without their phones," he said. "Maybe it'll be a relief."