Printed on: December 13, 2012

Students fundraise for charities and disadvantaged

By Nate Sunderland

Not all lessons taught in school involve the three R's.

Idaho Falls-area students are working hard, having fun and learning the value and rewards of helping those in need through their work on holiday-related charity drives.

The holiday months are when student leaders mastermind their schools' biggest fundraisers to make donations to local charities on behalf of their schools.

Canned-food drives are a grade school staple for fundraisers, but Coins for Christmas is another popular effort in Idaho Falls School District 91 and Bonneville Joint School District 93.

Schools team up with Z103 Radio and Eastern Idaho Credit Union to raise money to help needy families purchase shoes.

The districts' combined efforts raised more than $10,000 for the charity in 2011. This year, the students hope to raise even more.

"I don't think any kid really wants to be shoeless on Christmas," 13-year-old Teigen Erickson said. "(Shoes) would be a really nice Christmas present for me if I didn't have any."

Teigen is a member of the student council at Sandcreek Middle School in District 93. Sandcreek made Coins for Christmas a competition through "penny wars."

"Any student can do it; all they have to have is a dime in their pocket," said student council member Tyson Kress, 14.

Students in each classroom fill a jar with coins and cash. They receive points for the number of pennies put in the jar but are docked points for silver coins and paper bills. To offset docked points, students must bring in pennies equal to the amount of silver coins and bills in the jar.

It becomes a war when students sabotage rival classrooms' jars by putting in large amounts of silver coins or paper bills.

"It's more fun for kids to bring in money and have a war with it (rather than) bringing in a canned food item their parents gave them," said student council member Taisha Finlayson, 13. "Instead, we can bring in our own money (to help charities)."

The two- to three-week fundraiser usually brings in about $3,500. After its first week, Sandcreek students had raised about $1,000.

Not all of the fundraisers target community charities; some help their own students.

At Taylorview Middle School in District 91, students spend the school year raising money and food for the Christmas Project, a charity effort to help disadvantaged students at the school.

"It's heart-wrenching for us to know some of our students may not have anything under their Christmas tree," said Sherry Clements, a secretary in the counseling office. "We know times are tough for some of these families, and we want to make sure they have some presents."

The students raise money from penny wars, weekly Jamba Juice fundraisers, food drives and selling candy canes. Last year, they raised about $2,500.

The money will pay for 24 students to receive two pairs of pants, two shirts, packages of socks and underwear, and a fleece blanket. A total of 41 needy families with kids in the school also will receive a Christmas food bag containing a turkey dinner.

The Christmas Project is a great opportunity for students to learn about leadership and service, said Georgia Lanning, 14, the Honor Society co-president.

"This makes me feel like I'm part of this school, and that I'm making a difference at Taylorview," said Rachel Okeson, 13, the Honor Society co-vice president. "Learning to help others is a skill we will use for the rest of our lifetime, and so it's vital we learn it now."