Pine View High students raise more than $21,000 for 5-year-old cancer survivor

Lexi Vaipae, 5, performs with Pine View High dancers during the "Mr./Ms. PVHS Pageant," St. George, Utah, Feb. 26, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A young cancer survivor and her family took home more than $21,000 Tuesday thanks to the collective efforts of a generous Pine View High School student body.

Hundreds of students packed the school’s auditorium for the ninth annual “Mr./Ms. PVHS Pageant,” an all-in-fun talent show filled with surprises.

Some of the morning’s more random moments included a bagpiper ripping off his kilt and suddenly switching instruments to an electric bass, the school’s principal kissing farm animals on the lips and audience members holding their phones aloft and swaying during a heartfelt song.

Relive the “Mr./Ms. PVHS Pageant” assembly by browsing through the St. George News photo gallery below.

PVHS teacher Kerry Moody, who was in charge of this year’s event, said the students had been actively collecting donations over the past few months.

The money was raised in a variety of ways, including benefit concerts, a track meet, a 5k run, sports tournaments, bake sales, auctions and T-shirt sales.

During her remarks, Moody asked all those who’d participated in the various fundraising activities to stand and remain standing as she went through the list. It wasn’t long before everyone in the auditorium was on their feet.

This year’s chosen beneficiary of the school’s collective fundraising efforts was 5-year-old Lexi Vaipae, a kindergartner at Panorama Elementary School. Lexi, who has been battling leukemia since 2016, was in attendance at the assembly, along with her parents, Eugene and Casi Vaipae, her older sister Kennedy and other family members.

Lexi Vaipae, 5, is surrounded by Pine View High School students at the conclusion of the “Mr./Ms. PVHS Pageant,” St. George, Utah, Feb. 26, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

It was a special day for Lexi, starting with the ice cream sundae made especially for her onstage by pageant contestant Jaxon Keeler, who scooped up her customized treat for his talent.

Lexi was also spotlighted in a short video, during which her teacher and classmates shared what they like most about her, including her friendly personality, her smile and her willingness to help others.

Lexi even took the stage again toward the end of the event, performing a graceful number with the school’s dance club, replicating a halftime performance she’d done with them during a recent basketball game. Lexi wore a Polynesian floral print dress just like her favorite Disney character, Moana.

More than two dozen PVHS clubs and organizations contributed donations during the drive, Moody said, adding that students from each of the top eight fundraising groups were chosen as the finalists for the pageant.

The eight contestants who competed Tuesday were Mark Elemile of the Mosaic Club, Jaxon Keeler of the choir, Daniel Sears of FFA, Peyton Ball of HOSA, Cooper Despain of the cross-country team, Auden Dahn of the GSA club, Brooke Schimbeck of drama, and Miles Gilmore of the student executive council.

In true pageant format, each of the contestants performed a talent, modeled a dress or costume associated with their club, and answered a couple randomly drawn questions, one funny and one serious.

After the scores were added up by the judges at the end, Gilmore was named the overall winner and crowned Mr. PVHS. Schimbeck and Sears were named the first and second runners-up, respectively.

But the real winner of the day was Lexi, who happily posed for photos along with her family after receiving an oversized check representing the donation amount of $21,186.36. It was the largest total in the nine-year history of the event, said PVHS teacher Todd Shaw, who served as the pageant’s emcee.

“I love this assembly. This is what makes us different here at Pine View,” Shaw told the audience.

“Thank you Pine View! Go Panthers!” said a visibly moved Eugene Vaipae, Lexi’s father, who wiped away tears as he expressed his gratitude to the students and the community for their support.

Following the assembly, numerous students came down to the stage to greet Lexi and her family and to wish them well. She proudly showed off her new tiara and cape she received for being the honorary Ms. PVHS.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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