By Christopher Gordon

A few years ago, ECS high school student Samantha Van Wicklin wanted to make a difference when the mother of a friend was diagnosed with cancer.

On Tuesday, she was honored during a ceremony for “outstanding young philanthropist” as her efforts to raise money for Roswell Park Institute were honored during a ceremony at Salvatore’s Italian Gardens in Depew.

ECS Superintendent Mark J. Ward, who was asked to attend by Van Wicklin because of his support for the cause, said watching her receive the acclaim for her hard work is the highlight of this school year.

“Sammy handled herself so well,” Ward said. “People were impressed by her.”

When she learned of the diagnosis for her friend’s mom, she started raising money for the Ride for Roswell, which is held each June.

That first year, she raised about $4,000.

She raised her goal to $10,000 in 2014, and ended up raising about $22,000. She raised $25,500 in 2015 and fell a hair shy of $30,000 in 2016.

In all, she has raised approximately $86,000 for the cause.

Her father, Robert Van Wicklin, who is a member of the Ellicottville School Board, said there were more than 600 people in attendance at Tuesday’s luncheon.

Ward said he is very proud of Samantha, noting that she has the heart and willingness to help others out.

“You just can’t teach that,” Ward said.

Her father joked that she especially wanted Ward in attendance so she felt “less guilty” about skipping school, which drew laughter from other board members.

Ward said he hears so much about bad things happening, and said this shows there are still many good people in this world. He added that there are many really good kids among the students in the district.

However, Ward was also quick to note that wanting to give back is a trait that starts in the home, and credited her family for inspiring her to want to help others.

In other news, Ward said a call from a friend will lead the money to some additional funding it did not know it was owed.

He said a friend of his, who was “bored,” and was on the New York State website for unclaimed funds through the office of State Comptroller Thomas P. Napoli, discovered that the Ellicottville Central School District was listed as being owed funds.

“There’s two things in for Ellicottville Central Schools,” Ward said. “It’s money.”

One of the companies listed is Pierce and Company, which has been a company the district has worked with in regards to text books.

The other is Safety-Kleen systems, which has done work for the district in the bus garage in the past.

Ward said his friend called him the other day and told him, “I was looking on there and spotted a couple of things.”

What Ward does not know at this time is how much money the district will be receiving or why specifically they are owed money.

He said he is currently in the middle of completing paperwork to submit to the state, which must include a cancelled check to prove they are the entity that is owed the funding.

Although he does not know how much it is for, he said it is definitely monetary funding owed to the district and nothing else.

Also on Tuesday, High School Principal Bob Miller said during his report that he was proud of the hard work put in this fall by students who participated in the various sports programs.

“Three of the teams made it to the Section VI finals,” Miller said, adding that no team advanced beyond that point.

He added that he was excited to see the football team return to New Era Field, home of the Buffalo Bills, during the playoffs. Although Miller joked that he still refers to it as Rich Stadium, which was the original name of the field.

He said winter sports are starting to gear up, noting that to date, 38 girls showed up to try out for the basketball teams. There have been 25 boys to tryout for basketball as well.

Fall sports will still be on the minds of the district as the girls’ and boys’ volleyball teams will be honored during a banquet on Monday, Nov. 21 at the high school.

The football team will hold its fall banquet on Monday, Nov. 28 at the Great Valley Fire Hall.

The Ellicottville Central School Board will hold its next meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6 at Ellicottville High School, 5873 Route 219.