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These Coquitlam students are organizing a golden gala fundraiser for kids cancer research

The Golden Gala at Gleneagle Secondary in Coquitlam is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 26.
Jaiyana Samji, Zoey Liu and Joanna Xu check the artwork for a poster promoting the Black & Gold gala they've organized at Gleneagle Secondary School to raise money for the Michael Cuccione Foundation.

Transforming the functional space of a high school multipurpose room into a splendorous venue worthy of hosting a gala is just the least of the tasks being tackled by three students organizing the Feb. 26 affair at Gleneagle Secondary School.

Zoey Liu, Jaiyana Samji and Joanna Xu have been working since the start of the school year concocting plans and sorting logistics for the event that is raising money for the Michael Cuccione Foundation.

They’re part of the school’s ConX leadership group that challenges its members to organize events and stage activities that pull together the student body and enhance their involvement in the surrounding community. Past initiatives have included sleep outs to raise awareness of homelessness among young people, a conference to give students greater understanding of the benefits and challenges of STEAM and even online events to raise money for Backpack Buddies and orient incoming freshmen.

Xu said taking on a gala took their efforts to a whole new level.

“This would be a good way to connect with the whole community,” she said.

But first they had to decide on a beneficiary for their event.

Samji said she’d had some previous involvement with the Cuccione Foundation’s annual Kick for a Cure soccer event and all three students had brushes with health issues so that made the local organization’s mission to find a cure for childhood cancers a natural landing spot.

From there came the challenge of elevating a standard fundraiser into an evening event worthy of the title "gala."

It turned out to be a rather momentous task, said Liu.

“We’ve planned this from scratch,” she said. “It takes a lot of time and energy.”

From emailing over 500 potential sponsors to help with costs and donating items for a silent auction or prizes for the raffle, to lining up entertainment and appetizers, to designing and collecting decorations, the three students said they’ve been working on the project almost every day since September, often for several hours at a time.

“You take it as a responsibility,” said Liu.

“It’s a motivator,” added Samji. “It makes me work harder.”

“It keeps you focused,” said Xu.

Gleneagle’s Golden Gala, that runs from 6 to 9 p.m., Feb. 26, features entertainment from musicians Dani Black, Maia, Jian Ross, rapper (and Gleneagle grad) Juho, as well as spoken word artist Johnny Macrae.

Silent auction items include gift cards from Browns Social House and Boston Pizza, passes to Playland, a smart watch, yoga supplies, books and a one-month membership to a fitness club.

With months of work behind them and only days to go to the big event, Xu, Liu and Samji are scrambling to finalize the little details they hope will make the evening extra special. Not the least of which is decorating the multipurpose room with lights, black and gold accoutrements, nice dishes and elegant silverware.

“Coming into it, we didn’t realize how much work it was going to be,” said Xu. “But it really shows our passion.”

For more details about the Golden Gala, you can visit its Instagram page. Tickets are available for $20 at Show Tix 4 U.