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A Florida Key Club's Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF fundraising goes behind the curtain instead of door-to-door.

Story by Sarah Moreland   |   Photos by Tom Salyer

Edwin Perez peeks behind the curtain, one hand on his headset, the other motioning to his friends on the other wing of the stage. He’s dressed up like he’s going to prom: white shirt, striped tie, black pants. 

Behind him, the backstage area is chaotic. Girls with matching ponytails in black dance leotards huddle together. A boy in a neon-green T-shirt and red Chuck Taylors practices some break dance moves. Other students run to grab their instruments from the green room. 

Tonight, Perez and his fellow Key Clubbers are more than just high school students. They’re the directors, performers and stage crew of a community-wide benefit show—one that will help save thousands of lives.

The start of something big
Hialeah High School Key Club’s fall benefit show has become a tradition in this south Florida community. For the past three years it’s gotten the attention of hundreds of classmates, school staff and even important community leaders—including Carlos Hernandez, the city mayor, and other members of city council. 

But the mayor isn’t the only familiar face in the audience. Geily Gonzalez, the 2010–11 club president, has come back to support her friends. Now a junior at Miami Dade College, she’s made time to see the show the past two years. The benefit show is important to her. She helped start it three years ago. 

“It was an idea to bring recognition to the school,” she says. “You can’t sell pizza and raise US$5,000. We needed something that we could do that would raise the money in one day, so that was when we came up with the idea of doing a benefit show.”  

The first performance in 2010 took three months and many long nights to prepare. Gonzalez remembers sometimes staying at school until 10 p.m. working on the show. Everything was a new experience for the club: organizing musical acts, publicizing the event, even getting tickets to sell. 

The first show was a success. The club raised US$5,500 for Operation Smile, an organization that provides medical treatment for children with facial deformities. The following year, the event raised more than US$2,000 for The Eliminate Project, the Kiwanis family’s campaign to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus from the face of the Earth. The show continues to raise money for The Eliminate Project.

Raising the curtain—and funds

It’s finally here. Perez gathers fellow board members together, and they watch as the show begins. The nearly packed auditorium starts clapping off-rhythm as the first act, a rock band called Crossroads, performs the Foo Fighters’ “Learn to Fly.” From behind the stage, Perez and his team relish the loud cheers, chatter and occasional “Yeah!” from the crowd. The acts continue. Students step onstage to sing Latin pop ballads, strum guitars, play saxophone solos and perform lyrical dances and hip-hop moves—all in the name of charity. By the time the curtain closes and everyone heads home, the club has raised more than US$3,500—a new club record for The Eliminate Project. Those funds will help save or protect almost 2,000 women and their future children.

Get a behind-the-scenes look at Hialeah High School Key Club's benefit show! Check out the video at and visit our Flickr photo gallery.

What is your club doing for Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF? Let us know in the comments below.