BRANDON — It's almost a cliche — all right, it is a cliche — to bemoan the depravity of high school youth.
Then you meet the exception.
More than 100 such exceptions exist in the Brandon High School Key Club.
These are kids with everything — brains, sports, college offers and a romantic interest here and there.
And yet they spend their early-dismissal Wednesdays at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital, scrubbing down the toys.
The most obvious question — why? — has no easy answer.
But for some, selfless service is rooted in tradition.
Wesley Budd, 18, said his mother was in Key Club back in Armwood High School.
Marlee Taylor, 16 and the president-elect, said both her parents were in Key Club, one at Brandon High.
"It's awesome," said Marlee, who also plays volleyball and belongs to the National Honor Society. "They talked about the initiation. They said they used it for college. And it's fun."
Sponsored by the Kiwanis, Key Club provides labor for a variety of community causes.
They can be charitable, such as the food and clothing drives for Metropolitan Ministries.
Other times, members simply lend a hand by manning booths at elementary school carnivals, for example. One such gig is planned on Jan. 30 at Symmes Elementary School in Riverview.
It helps that the Brandon teens are great friends. Still, their schedules would seem to yield little leisure time.
Molly Buchanan, the 17-year-old club historian, is senior class president and plays viola.
Kamar Hamdallah, 17, is in the math club. Wesley and Shelby Williams run track and cross country, and Shelby's in the Latin club, too.
"We all use planners, for sure," Marlee said. "That helps." So does texting, constantly, the others added.
Second obvious question: Is it cool to be in Key Club?
"Our members really don't care about that," Wesley said. Drugs and alcohol do not exist here, they say. You need to apply to get in, although they don't turn a lot of members away.
They have won the respect of Kristie Collins, a 35-year-old college and career counselor who has a been the club adviser since 2006.
Collins was a Key Club member at Plant High School and has long embraced the culture.
"The officers are committed," she said. "They are committed to serving," she said. "They never say no. And they always put in 100 percent."
The club at Brandon High, she says, is the school's largest, she said. During the Christmas season, they collected teddy bears for children and "adopted" a family, collecting money and gift certificates and a donated tree.
They don't expect to stop after high school.
"I think everyone, as cheesy as this sounds, should make time to help others, even if it's just 30 minutes or however long they can," Kamar said.
When the year is out, many of these kids will be in college. Several are going to the University of South Florida. Shelby is waiting to hear from Appalachian State University, where she plans to study exercise science.
Collins said she will keep the flame burning at Brandon.
"These are great kids," she said, working on a classroom display as she spoke. "I can't let it go."
Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 909-4602 or firstname.lastname@example.org.