Rock’n out for a cause

SAC CITY – Brad Pickhinke is ready to rock for a reason. The reason is named Nicole Schuett.

He knew Schuett only briefly before she lost her battle with cancer. But in that time, he was so inspired by her positive spirit that he knew he had to give something back. Through his “Rock’n Out Cancer” project he now hopes to raise $10,000 for cancer research with a music video, and inspire other schools to do the same.

Pickhinke, a senior at East Sac Community High School, met Schuett in the summer of 2011 after his sophomore year. She was his neighbor at Lake Okoboji.

She’d just finished a bout with breast cancer, but Pickhinke said she was still incredibly positive.

“She was one of those people you were drawn to, because she was so positive,” Pickhinke said. “She had this laugh that would fill up a room.”

Pickhinke had had a rough year.

“I had all these negative thoughts, like why should I continue with all my activities when this year went so bad,” he said. “She talked to me about all she’d been through and all her family went through, and it was just inspiring to hear how positive she was about it.”

“It inspired me to get back up and get over my problems.”

Schuett was a special education teacher at Le Mars High School. She stayed positive even when cancer was found in her lungs that fall, and as it spread to her brain and spinal chord.

“Even through all that, losing her hair again, the chemo, the radiation – she was still so positive,” Pickhinke said. “She still had that infectious laugh, and this amazing attitude about everything. She kept doing what she loved.”

Two things she loved were music and dancing. After Schuett died on July 11, 2012, Pickhinke and his friends realized that a music video would be a great way to honor her memory.

Pickhinke made an informational video, which can be seen at, urging his peers to get involved to beat cancer.

He held an assembly in his school in February to get volunteers for the video. He encouraged everyone to buy a $10 T-shirt, and raise $40 more in addition.

“I had 220 sign-ups that day,” he said. He recently turned in an order for 275 shirts.

Half of the T-shirt money goes to pay for the shirts. The rest is sent to the American Cancer Society. If all 275 buyers also raise the $40, that would be more than $12,000 for cancer research.

The video itself will be filmed at the high school on Saturday, set to “I’m on a roll” by Stefano Langone.

“It’s similar to what ‘Dance Marathon’ did, so it won’t be a lot of scripted dancing, just singing. They’re going to go through the hallways, and as they progress more people will start showing up to show how cancer affects everyone,” Pickhinke said.

The video will end with a big group choreographed dance in the gym, and a recognition of cancer survivors.

The high school choir teacher will design the choreography, he said, while some friends of his from another school will provide their technical expertise in making the video.

But Pickhinke’s video is only the beginning.

“Our long-term goal is to get 300 schools involved,” he said.

Pickhinke did a presentation in New Orleans when he was involved with the Youth Leadership Council. Now schools in Georgia and Michigan are interested in making a video too.

He’s also making plans to travel to other area schools and present the idea.

“Every time I talk to a group of people, I get kids who come up to me afterward and tell me how their mom passed away or their dad passed away,” Pickhinke said. “It shows that Nicole had a great effect on me, but her case is not a rare case. It happens all the time.”

It will be a challenge, he said, to see which school can get the most involvement, raise the most money and make the best video. Videos will be posted to a Facebook page, along with earnings and participation numbers. A winner will be picked every four months.

Pickhinke hopes that if enough schools pick up the project, $2 million to $3 million can be raised for the American Cancer Society in memory of Schuett.

“I really didn’t know her that long, but the difference she made in me, in about a year and a half that I knew her, was absolutely amazing,” Pickhinke said. “Even though she was never my teacher, and never taught at my school, the lessons she taught me were more than anything I’d ever learned in a classroom.”