By all accounts, Monday night's "Pack the House" event at Lawrence High was a resounding success. The five winter sports teams, cheerleaders, pom squad and band all showed off weeks of practice in front of a large crowd. The varsity girls and boys basketball squads looked impressive, easily handling the LHS junior varsity teams in 15-minute running-clock scrimmages.
But perhaps the most successful endeavour of the evening was for a greater cause. All proceeds from raffle-ticket sales went to help Lions assistant football coach Devin McAnderson, who is battling a rare bone-marrow disorder.
McAnderson, a 2001 graduate of LHS, was introduced at mid-court during the festivities and received a warm, extended standing ovation. He thanked the community and the school for the support before walking into the student section to exchange hugs with his players.
"He's the guy," Lawrence baseball coach Brad Stoll said. "We all love him, and I think it's wonderful that we can take the money we've raised here and help him offset some medical costs. Overall, that's the best thing about tonight."
Baba Diallo, a senior on the LHS basketball team who played football for McAnderson, said the tribute was emotional.
"He's a pretty awesome person," Diallo said. "He was always there for Lawrence High. Lawrence High means a whole lot to him, so it was moving to see that. We appreciate him a lot."
The evening was a celebration - of both McAnderson and the Lions teams. And the mood was plenty lighthearted, full of skits and silly antics.
The girls basketball team paraded out in sideways hats and baggy shorts to square off in a dance battle at mid-court. Students took turns heaving halfcourt shots for gift certificates. The swimming and diving team held a relay race, paddling face down on elementary school scooters. Even LHS football coach Dirk Wedd sported a red wig and polka-dotted dress, posing as Hilga the Dodgeball Queen during a teacher-versus-student dodgeball game.
In the end, though, it was clear the evening belonged to one man.
"He's a great, great man, and he's really given us a lot here at Lawrence High," Lions varsity basketball coach Chris Davis said of McAnderson. "I just think it's a great thing for the kids and for the community to come together and help out. It's awesome."