Maiden Middle School students are trying to stay one step ahead of cancer.
The school participated Wednesday in national Mad Hatter Day to raise money for cancer awareness and prevention. Students paid $1 to wear a hat during the day, and through the donations, the school raised $455.29.
"If (students) learn that lesson at this age, it becomes a lifelong trend," said Nan Van Hoy, Maiden Middle principal.
Students also donated 127 hats in different sizes and colors for the Hats Off for Cancer organization, which provides hats for children diagnosed with cancer.
Each hat was individually wrapped and many hats included a personal message from the donor.
"I hope you like this hat," one hand-written note said.
According to the Hats Off for Cancer website, the organization donated more than 715,000 hats to needy children since it was created more than 13 years ago. This is the fourth annual national Mad Hatter Day.
Katie P., a Maiden Middle student, said the day is about more than wearing a hat. She had a family member who died of cancer, and she wants to prevent that from happening to others.
"I like supporting (Mad Hatter Day), because I don't want kids to die like he did," she said.
Hats Off for Cancer gives hats to organizations across the country, including the American Cancer Society, the Childhood Leukemia Foundation and the Make a Wish Foundation.
When students donated $1 or brought in a hat, they received a sticker to wear on their clothes. During lunch, each student received a cup of tea for a Mad Hatter Tea Party.
For some students, however, donating a dollar for Mad Hatter Day isn't as easy as simply pulling a bill from their purses or wallets.
"For some of our kids, they truly have to save up a dollar," Van Hoy said.
The school participated in hat days before, but the event was never associated with Mad Hatter Day.
"When we got the information about national Mad Hatter Day, we thought it was a great opportunity," Van Hoy said. "Kids love wearing hats."
Maiden Middle students are typically not allowed to wear hats during school hours, so Wednesday represented a departure from the norm.
The cafeteria was a sea of bucket hats, baseball caps and even a few brightly colored jester's hats. Some teachers and other staff members, including Van Hoy, also wore hats for the special occasion.
"It's a little more crazy around here than it normally is," Van Hoy said, "but it's for a good cause."