AUBURN — Rakiya Mohamed barely took a breath as she ran through her pitch — selling a coin-like coupon to dinner patrons at Gritty McDuff’s — before bustling back to her team with a smile and a $20 bill.

Moments later, other teens arrived holding $5 and $10 bills and bundles of $1 bills for the team, which encircled a side table of the restaurant covered with munchies and ice water. Together, the teens laughed and joked. It could be any club.

But it’s not.

The money they raised that night — $42 in 50/50 tickets and $248 in coupon coins — will help families at the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing.

“We know we’re not just doing this for fun or just to kill time,” said Mohamed, who joined team PT Red Eddies last year as an Edward Little High School senior.

Though she’s now a student at Bates College, she came back for the friends and the importance of the mission.

“You realize that with our hard work we’re touching people’s lives,” she said.

Teammate Francesca Haines, an EL junior, knows what it means. The center has helped her.

“My dad was diagnosed with lung cancer two summers ago,” Haines said. “I was able to go through the process. I understand what it feels like to have cancer in your family.

“My dad died later that summer,” she said.

Surrounded by her teammates, Haines, an EL junior, quietly went on.

“My mom, this summer, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer,” she said. “She went through the surgeries and all the processes, and now she’s doing fine.”

Joining the team gave her support. 

“It builds a bridge for you to get to know others,” Mohamed said.

It also sharpened her mission.

“I want to be an oncologist,” she said. “I want to be able to help those who are going through what I went through.”

Edward Little teacher Karen Boucher started the team two years ago at the school. Last year, they were one of the top money makers with more than $17,000 raised — money that was matched through Positive Tracks, a Hanover, N.H.-based nonprofit organization that matches money raised by the challenge’s 23-and-under crowd.

This year’s team, which now has 42 members, has already topped last year’s total by more than $10,000. It includes lots of EL students, Boucher’s daughter, Ella, teacher Maureen Edgerton and two volunteers from Tenants Harbor, Tom Armitage and Shannon Thompson, who have each raised more than $10,000.

Ella Boucher and her friend, Molly Vincent — both middle schoolers — have raised more than $4,000 with a cupcake enterprise they call “Delicious for Dempsey.”

“That’s over 2,000 cupcakes!” Karen Boucher said.

All the money will help the Dempsey Center’s mission to help families affected by cancer.

The work feels important because it is important, senior Jake Bazinet said.

Bazinet ran the 5K in last year’s Dempsey Challenge, then spent hours working in the children’s area.

It feels like important work for a high-schooler, he said.

“I think that our fundraiser is unique on its own, because it’s not raising money for Cub Scouts or for a class to raise money to go on a senior trip,” he said. “It’s raising money to help someone.”

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