A performance of "Jingle Bells" during the holiday season by the Sebring Middle School eighth-grade show choir paid off Thursday to the tune of $15,000.
Prior to a volleyball pep rally in the school's gymnasium, Rack Room Shoes Regional Manager Ken Helm presented the $15,000 check to the school, which was among four winners of the national footwear retailer's Gift of Music video contest.
"I am more than excited," said Sebring Middle Chorus Director Kara Williams prior to the check presentation.
The money will used to update the risers in her choral room, which are "dangerously old," she said. Also, she will remodel the room so it can accommodate more students.
Williams explained that she lost her previous room a few years back when the cafeteria was expanded.
She stressed that the show choir is the school's only chorus group that has auditions so she encourages all students to participate and tries to work with as many students as possible.
Principal Sandra Whidden told the assembly that she was proud to have had such a great show of support from the community.
The show choir students carried the oversized check back to the choral room where they sang The Mamas & the Papas tune "California Dreamin'" and then picked up the pace with the early '60s Curtis Lee song "Pretty Little Angel Eyes."
Williams became emotional as she thanked her students for their efforts.
When they were in sixth-grade she knew this group of students would be special, Williams said. "You have made my dream come true."
Parent volunteer Samantha Bickman said after Williams learned of the contest they discussed what they could do and Bickman suggested having the students sing at Rack Room Shoes at Lakeshore Mall.
Bickman videotaped the performance that featured the students using shoes as microphones.
From November 13 to December 21, Rack Room Shoes hosted its first video contest to support K-12 school music programs. Participants submitted a video rendition of one of five holiday songs for the chance to win a $15,000 music grant for their school.
In Highlands County, students, families and community members supported the effort with more than 18,000 votes for Sebring Middle.
For her part in submitting what became a winning video, Bickman was awarded a $500 iTunes gift card, a set of speakers and an Apple iPod Touch.
The other three schools that won the 2012 Gift of Music video contest were: Bonita Springs Middle School Center for the Arts, Bonita Springs; Christian Life Academy, Baton Rouge, La. And Central Academy of Technology and Arts, Monroe, N.C.