By Erika Webb
"Teach them well and let them lead the way," implores Whitney Houston's anthem Greatest Love of All.
Students from two West Volusia high schools are doing just that -- rallying in support of two beloved teachers who are facing the challenge of a lifetime.
Spike to Save!, a men's volleyball tournament in the DeLand High School gymnasium March 13 was the latest student-driven fundraiser to help Pine Ridge High School math teacher Charles "Charlie" Lundell and his family.
The tournament included two senior teams, Team Train and Saucy Seniors; three junior teams, Neon Army, Ball Bombers and Banana Split; one sophomore team, Butterscotch Complexion; one freshman team, Spiked Punch; and one mixed team, Scrubs.
Team Scrubs took first place and Team Train took second, but, really, everybody won.
The touching story has made national news.
Mr. Lundell has taught at Pine Ridge in Deltona since it opened in 1994. Last year he was the named the school's "Teacher of the Year."
Ten months ago he was medically cleared after treatment for tonsil cancer. Recently, doctors told him the cancer had metastasized to his brain, lung and liver.
"I'm gonna kick this cancer's butt," Mr. Lundell told TODAY.com. "It's not about me. It's about living for them."
Known and loved for putting students' needs first, the teacher also has other big reasons to fight.
Mr. Lundell and his wife, Melissa, the ESE consultation teacher and co-SGA sponsor at DeLand High, are expecting twins -- Gianna and Luke -- in June. He has two children from a previous marriage.
Leadership teacher Mendi Camacho co-sponsors the SGA with Mrs. Lundell.
Fundraisers are the Leadership students' forte. They organize and facilitate homecoming, the Miss DHS pageant and others to raise money.
The volleyball event started with leadership students trying to come up with a fundraiser to help the Lundells, Mrs. Camacho said.
"We put our brains together and found there were a lot of guys at school interested in volleyball," she said.
DeLand High does not have a boys' volleyball team.
The group came up with the idea to have each of the players from the eight teams pay $10 to play in the tournament -- with the girls' team -- and to ask for a $5 donation for entry to the event.
All concession revenue for the evening also was donated to the Lundells, SGA President Selena Velazquez announced at the beginning of the tournament.
Mr. Lundell had his final radiation treatment hours before the event so after the National Anthem, members of the DHS Chorus sang "Celebration."
Selena's voice broke as she finished explaining the Lundells' situation and introduced the chorus. Mrs. Lundell wiped away tears.
Players and other students lined up in front of the couple to deliver what had to be a hundred or more hugs.
Love heals ...
Mr. Lundell, who said he has taught everything from Algebra 1 to pre-calculus, paused to swallow emotion when asked how students from Pine Ridge and DeLand High have made him feel.
"Humble," Mr. Lundell said. "I don't ... I just do my job the best way I can and people must like what I do. It's an experience that makes you think, wow, I really do have an impact and it's just something that makes you feel proud."
At Pine Ridge, the school's prom committee members have vowed to donate all money, over and above what will be spent on event essentials, to the Lundell family.
Money left over from last year, a school allotment and cash from fundraisers will cover the basics.
Foregoing frills and earmarking revenue from ticket sales will go a long way toward helping the Lundells.
Altruism has spread like a good rumor throughout the school and beyond.
Anonymous donations, a student-hosted basketball game and T-shirt sale as well as contributions from community members and former students also have aided the cause.
DeLand High's SGA Executive Board President and Renaissance Club Publicist Olivia Stewart is a junior at the school. She helped her Leadership classmates publicize the event, run the concessions and collect donations during the volleyball games.
"We are so surprised at the amount that we collected. We collected over $5,000 at the tournament, and as of right now, we are working on setting up an account for further donations," Olivia said. "I'm really just so appreciative of all those who came out to support such a great cause and it definitely couldn't have been done without the amazing girls volleyball team -- who taught the guys how to play -- and their incredible coach, Mr. Foxworth, for volunteering to help us out in so many ways."
Leadership is an elective, but students don't just sign up and go to class. They apply, follow an intricate process and are then selected to participate, Ms. Camacho said.
"My Leadership class has impressed me beyond measure with this event. Their love for the Lundell family inspired them to go above and beyond my expectations," Mrs. Camacho said. "The tournament was a huge success thanks to my Leadership class, Coach Foxworth and the girls volleyball team ... as well as the loving students, faculty and community members that came out to support us."
Mrs. Lundell said she never could have expected the outpouring of affection and effort.
"Mrs. Camacho and the Leadership students did a phenomenal job of pulling this together with the volleyball coach, Steve Foxworth and his volleyball team," Mrs. Lundell said. "Charlie and I are so appreciative and we're blessed to have such wonderful people in our lives."
An account -- The Lundell Family Charity Fund -- is established at Surety Bank for donations.