by Darren Diekmann
Schools of the Sauk Rapids-Rice district last Friday held their annual “Walk for Life,” the final event in a four-week effort to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Hundreds of students, parents and school faculty and staff raised thousands of dollars and walked to honor or memorialize those who are or have suffered from cancer. Participants from Pleasantview Elementary walked around a track that was set up on the baseball field and lined with luminaria and posters the students made for the four-week-long fundraising event.
A KCLD van was on hand pumping out music to add to an already festive atmosphere. Even in the unseasonable 90-degree heat, the kids had to be encouraged not to run. But the free water and freezies handed out by staff and the student council helped to cool them down.
The students walked in half-hour shifts with five to 10 minutes staggered start times for each class. There were students continuously walking throughout the day.
This was Pleasantview’s 14th annual “Walk for Life,” according to Principal Aby Froiland.
Ellen Fuller, the principal’s secretary, said she believes they were the first school in the district to do the walk when the American Cancer Society approached them to do it as a service project.
“It was important to us as staff, as we had some close connections to staff and staff family members who were dealing with cancer,” Fuller said.
Last year, Pleasantview raised its largest amount ever, more than $10,000, yet they never set a monetary goal.
“Our goal each year is to have each child participate,” Fuller said. “No amount collected is too small. It’s to honor those family members and friends who have fought the fight against cancer – those who have survived and those who have lost the battle.”
The four-week-long fund aising effort started early April when each student took home a Gatorade bottle, because of its wide mouth, to collect whatever amount of money they chose, and returned it last Friday.
Throughout this time, the students were given incentives. Each Friday, they were given a different reward for a dollar donation. One week it was being allowed to wear a hat, a forbidden item on a regular day. Other rewards were popcorn, or an extension of free time or recess, and then the final reward – the “Walk for Life.”
They also participated in activities to keep them focused on the event. Each class made a group poster. The school then voted for the one they liked the most. All the posters were displayed along the walking track Friday.
The students also decorated luminarias – small white paper bags with the name of someone close to them who has either died of, or is fighting, cancer.
Students of Mississippi Heights Elementary walked with teachers and staff to the Sauk Rapids-Rice Middle School and joined parents and the middle-school students walking around the track. At anytime there was well over a hundred students walking.
Here too the middle-school students had their form of luminarias, decorated pieces of paper with the name of a special person, taped to the fence surrounding the track.
“Our motto is to create a world with more birthdays,” said Carol Mead, a kindergarten teacher and chair of the organizing committee of the elementary school. “There are more than 4 million survivors and we are working on increasing that total.”
To achieve that, these students also had four weeks of fundraising incentives similar to the ones at Pleasantview. One difference was every classroom had a jar for coin donations only.
“There were weekly competitions between the grade levels, to see who raised the most that week,” Mead said.
This year had a new wrinkle in the rules. One grade could sabotage another by putting either a dollar bill or check in another grade’s jar. At the end of the week the sabotage (paper) money would be deducted from the total of the coins.
The middle school’s fundraising theme was “Paint Your World Purple.”
“Each class had a paint bucket to put donations in,” explained Cindy Hiedeman, the event coordinator at the middle school. “The winning class gets to paint human canvases.”
Faculty members were painted wearing white T-shirts out on the football field that afternoon.
Rice Elementary School, for the first year, added an additional few hours for walking from 3:45 to 7 p.m.
“We wanted to do that for parents who couldn’t take time out from work earlier in the day,” said Charyl Walberg,
Walberg also said they raised an estimated $10,000 this year, easily breaking their record from last year.