COSTA MESA — The wind off a helicopter hovering over the field kicked up a small dirt storm that swept over waiting students and parents.

Many youngsters pulled their powder blue shirts over their mouths and noses to keep out the dust, but most eyes were still open and transfixed as 3,080 golf balls were dropped from the helicopter.

"I liked it," said first-grader Lauren Tebbs, 6. "It looked like it was raining golf balls."

St. Joachim Catholic School hosted its on-campus helicopter golf ball drop fundraiser for the first time Wednesday afternoon to begin its annual golf tournament, a benefit at the Costa Mesa Country Club.

The school is trying to raise money to update its technology, buy new computers and keep tuition prices low so that families don't get priced out, which would lead to a decline in student diversity, said Principal Sister Kathleen Marie.

"It's something we depend upon so much," she said.

The balls were pre-sold for $10 apiece. The balls closest to nine golf course flags placed on the field were awarded prizes of $100, $500, $5,000, an iPad or an electric Razor scooter.

Lauren said she bought 15 golf balls and was hoping to win the top prize to buy "hamster toys because I have a hamster named Cucumber."

Luck wasn't on Lauren's side, but one of the balls she sold was the $500 winner.

While the students were beyond themselves with excitement when the balls dropped, they brought just as much enthusiasm to the task of gathering them up.

The younger children sprinted on to the field toward the mass of white in what resembled the world's most exciting Easter egg hunt.

Marcos Kehoe, 4, one of the smallest children on the field, used his shirt to hold his 10 golf balls while he ran to drop them off and get a Popsicle.

"I got 10 — yay!" he exclaimed, wearing a huge grin.