CHICAGO — When Michael Melchiorre was a freshman at Mount Carmel High School three years ago, he signed up to raise money for the St. Baldrick's Foundation because he wanted to raise a few hundred dollars to support a friend.
"I had a family friend, who was 13 with leukemia and in a wheelchair," Melchiorre said. "That's what really got me started because he was so young and should've been playing baseball because he loved it and loved to talk about it."
But instead of a few hundred dollars, the then-freshman at Mount Carmel raised $100,000 in less than a month.
"When I first started, no one was expecting anything like this. My goal was $500 or $1,000. That's what I thought would be good, but by March I had raised $100,000," Melchiorre said Tuesday before Mount Carmel's annual Brave the Shave assembly.
Josh McGhee says Melchiorre worked hard to raise the money:
This year, Melchiorre delivered once again.
The current senior and his team raised another $186,000, bringing his grand total for four years to more than $600,000. His contributions have consistently landed him on the list of top four fundraisers the foundation and a trip to the headquarters in California, he said.
In California, top executives hit him with a barrage of questions, but what they really wanted to know was the same thing his classmates were wondering: How did he do it?
"I really just saw the sign, thought it was a good idea and contacted everyone I possibly could," said Melchiorre, adding he called hundreds of people then thought to add incentives at his parents' restaurant, Clara's in suburban Woodridge.
They gave away stickers to add to a wall of donations along with putting a donation box on the counter. This year, they even offered a slice of Lemon Delight in exchange for donations, he said.
Melchiorre said he doesn't have any plans to work in cancer research in the future but instead will enter college next year with an open mind.
During the assembly, Mount Carmel students play games while students who raised money for St. Baldrick's have their head shaved as a part of the Chicago Area Schools Challenge.
The challenge began in 2007 and has grown to include nearly 100 schools and 5,000 volunteers. In 2014, the entire challenge raised $1.8 million with Mount Carmel topping the list of fundraisers with $215,724, said Claire Mattison, a spokeswoman for the school.
Despite how it sounds "it's not really a cutthroat competition" and his standout performance hasn't garnered any resentment from other students. Instead, it came to be expected, he said.
Melchiorre has already named his successor, his teammate for the past two years and little brother, Rudy.
"He's going to take over the reins," Melchiorre said.
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