SANTA CRUZ -- Alexa Menjivar kept a photo of her cousin Erick Rivas tucked into her iPhone case Friday morning at Good Shepherd Catholic School.

The 13-year-old Menjivar was there with her aunt, Veronica Rivas, to receive a check for $10,318.13 on behalf of her cousin, who was diagnosed with spinal cord cancer Dec. 7.

"It's good to see that people care," said Menjivar, an eighth-grader at Shoreline Middle School.

Good Shepherd raised the money during a 10-day stretch for Rivas' chemotherapy treatment and bills at Stanford Hospital. The 217-member student body held a Mass at the school Friday morning, and Monterey Bishop Richard Garcia presented Rivas' mother with the check.

"I'm filled with emotion," Veronica Rivas said after receiving the money. "I'm filled with emotion that the students would do this, and I'm so thankful."

Rivas, a sixth-grader at Shoreline Middle School, wasn't at the event due to an MRI he underwent Friday. The test will determine if the chemotherapy he's undergone the past three months is working. If not, Rivas will receive radiation treatment.

Good Shepherd students decided to raise the money after a student who plays soccer with Rivas told sixth-grade teacher Angela Rebol about the Rivas family's troubles. Rebol brought the idea to the faculty, which agreed it needed to take action and support the youngster.


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"The parents had less than 10 days' notice to pull all of this together," said Cynthia Fogarty, the school's principal.

The students raised the money over the course of a week and a half with a jog-a-thon held at the school. Students from each grade asked people to pledge donations for each lap they ran. One seventh-grader ran nearly 6 miles.

Students got creative by fundraising at soccer games and asking family members as far away as Minnesota for sponsorships. A few students even gave up their own allowances to help Rivas.

"It's hard to explain how proud I am of them," Fogarty said. "I even heard of two different students who went and got money out of their piggybanks for the event."

The Friday service capped off Good Shepherd's Catholic Schools Week, which also included a student appreciation day, letter writing for the community and a drive-through coffee stand to celebrate the school's parents.

"It ties in with the mission of the school, which is to go out and make the world a better place," Fogarty said.

The week ended with a schoolwide Mass, where students, faculty and parents sang songs with the school choir and discussed the importance of giving back.

"It's an absolutely glorious celebration," said Kathleen Radecke, the school's superintendent. "It's a celebration of service, and to see such an outpouring of generosity from the community in such a short period of time is amazing."

Follow Sentinel reporter Bonnie Horgos on Twitter at Twitter.com/bhorgos