On a calm, Saturday afternoon, the old Western-style Deer Lodge was buzzing with excitement when OVS freshman Avery Colborn walked onto the stage and stepped up to the microphone.
Backed by a lighted peace sign and a banner that read Deer Ole Opry, she fidgeted with her guitar, cleared her throat and began to sing.
The results were enchanting. And award winning.
Belting out First Class by Rainbow Kitten Surprise and Who Will Save Your Soul by Jewel, Avery took first place in the Ojai Valley Relay for Life Battle of the Bands, a benefit concert to raise money for the Ojai event, a 24-hour trek designed to celebrate cancer survivors, commemorate those who lost their lives to cancer and fight back against the disease.
“People were there to just spend time with their friends and enjoy music and I really liked performing there,” Avery said.
This year’s Ojai Valley Relay for Life will be held at Matilija Junior High School, beginning at 9 a.m. on April 22.
So far, this year’s Ojai relay has raised nearly $3,000, with the Holy Walkamolies leading the fundraising race, generating $1,740 to date. OVS, which will be taking part in its sixth straight Relay for Life, is so far the second-largest fundraiser, generating $650 thus far in donations.
But OVS senior Evelyn Brokering, who serves as community service representative to the Upper Campus Student Council, said she expects the school’s fundraising efforts to pick up as the event draws nearer.
“Last year, we were in first place in every fundraising category,” said Evelyn, noting that OVS raised more than $6,000 last year. “ I want to be the top fundraiser again this year and I hope to see every single person at OVS contribute.”
OVS AP Psychology teacher John Valenzuela, who doubles as the school’s international admissions and diversity coordinator, was on hand to watch Avery perform.
Mr. Valenzuela has participated in Relay for Life since 2011, a year after battling cancer.
As a way to more deeply involve residents of the Ojai Valley, he joined the Event Leadership Team, which comes together annually to organize events to get the community involved in the cause.
The Battle of the Bands was a first-time event for the Ojai relay, and one of several events staged by relay organizers as a way of raising awareness and money to support the April event.
Nine acts took to the Deer Lodge stage, including OVS seventh grader Beckett McDowell, who performed Vance Joy’s Riptide and the Beatles’ Rocky Raccoon. Beckett took third place in the Battle of the Bands, and helped raise a good amount of money for the Ojai relay.
“Overall, the event raised over $500 for the Ojai Valley Relay for Life 2017,” Mr. Valenzuela said. “The event was so successful we will likely bring it back next year.”
The benefit concert, which lasted about two hours, was not just a way to survey some local talent, but to also raise money for local relay teams.
Audience members could buy raffle tickets, priced at a dollar each, to place in the bucket of their favorite act. The act that collected the most raffle tickets won the opportunity to perform at next month’s relay.
“As the performances continued and the talent was obviously great, more and more people continued to buy tickets, as it was clear the battle it was not going to be an easy win,” Mr. Valenzuela said. “I thought the voting would be close, but Avery won in a landslide.”
Avery had plenty of support for her performance.
Some of her friends from OVS were in attendance, as were many members of her family including older brother Parker, who graduated from Upper in 2010. Her mother, Assistant Head of School Laurel Colborn, was enthralled the entire time her daughter was performing.
“I was beaming with pride,” Mrs. Colborn said. “I absolutely loved the performance.”
This performance is just one of the many American Cancer Society events that Avery has been a part of. In the past, she’s walked at the local Relay for Life with her family. However, this specific event was especially exciting because Avery got to use her talent to fundraise money.
“It was cool to win a contest like that but more so that I was able to raise money for a cause like that,” Avery said. “It felt like it actually had a purpose.”Share