by TaLeiza Calloway
The idea grew from a casual conversation between friends over dinner. That conversation led to sending an email and then to the planning of their first fundraiser.
Staci Theisen of St. Joseph and Kari Roberts of the Brainerd area thought about raising money to help their friend Jodi Rajkowski and her two sons Blake and Chase. Rajkowski lost her husband Ron in an auto accident in October. When Staci called to see if Jodi would mind if she and Roberts hosted an event for her, Rajkowski said she preferred a fundraiser be held to benefit Stride Academy, the school her children attend, Theisen said.
The idea grew from wanting to do something if the Rajkowski family needed assistance but Theisen was told that was not the case. This communication happend in February. Months later, vendors recruited and venue selected, the Cinco de Mayo Extravaganza is planned. The event will take place from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, May 5 at El Paso Bar and Grill in St. Joseph.
“It’s a process,” Theisen said. “It’s our first one that we’re putting together so we’re finding our way.”
Rajkowski told the school she wants the majority of the proceeds to go to technology and what is called the legacy fund, Elementary Dean of Students Cameo DeDominces said. The school’s legacy fund is devoted to developing leaders and character education.
They are going to discuss the specifics of how the money will be used but the school has some ideas.
“We’re looking to purchase additional laptops, tablets like the iPad for classroom,” DeDominces said. “so kids will have more access to technology and be more hands-on with technology.”
While there is no fundraising goal, organizers are simply hoping a lot of people show up and they make a lot of money for the school, Theisen said. As for the allocation of the proceeds, Rajkowski will determine this, Theisen said. One area that could benefit is the school’s technology department but it is still being determined where proceeds will be allocated.
About 30 vendors are lined up and the number could increase slightly, according to organizers. They including those that sell jewelry, art, body oils and home accessories. Home-based businesses were of particular interest for the event as a way to support them and provide a variety of products, organizers said.
“We kind of set it up like an expo,” Roberts said.
Roberts, an encaustic artist (painting with crayons), has been working with students from Stride Academy to create art for the event. Roberts said she will also auction off an original piece of artwork during the event.
The event will feature door prizes, food and beverages and a performance from Stride Academy’s Choir during the lunch hour, Roberts said. A portion of meals bought at El Paso will go to Stride Academy.
Stride Academy is a K-8 public charter school in St. Cloud. They have two sites, one is a building that houses grades K-5 building and another that holds grades 6-8 in a middle school building.
DeDominces said some attributes that make the school different from others is it has a year-round schedule, regulated class sizes and it levels students in math and reading.
DeDominces explained the school limits the class size for primary grades to 20; 21 for third and fourth grade and up to 24 for grade fifth and higher. If a Kindergartner reads at a fourth-grade level, he or she will be placed with students that read at the same level.
The school started in 2005 as a K-5 school with two sections of each grade. Next year, it plans to have four sections of Kindergarten, three sections of grades 1-3 with plans to grow higher grades with time, DeDominces said.
Stride Academy has a parent’s committee that holds an annual silent auction every November to raise money for the school. This is the first time a family offered to raise funds for the school. What the gesture means is the school makes a difference and has an impact beyond the school day, DeDominces said.
“We’re very thankful and very appreciative for Jodi and the family thinking of us,” DeDominces said. “It’s going to help students.”