Challis Elementary School saw “firsthand where the good people in our community helped spread happiness and hope for a better future,” teacher and student council advisor Ed Gregory said of the difficulties associated with 2020.

“We saw how the generosity of many gave strength and upliftment to those passing through the difficulties of the past year,” he said.

Elementary school students and staff embraced the Challis version of Coins for Christmas — Viking Christmas Baldercash, he said. For two weeks in December students collected coins and small bills to donate to people in need. To encourage participation and create more excitement, classes competed to bring in the most money, with the winning class determined on a per student average, he said.

Although the kids were motivated just to win, they had other reasons for bringing in the dough. The primary reason was because they’ve been taught by their families and community to help others. Also, the Challis Elementary Student Council set a goal for the kids to raise $800 and as a reward would sponsor a school-wide movie party the day before Christmas break. Lastly, there was a reward offered to the two classes with the highest per student average to participate in a winter outdoor party.

When all was said and done, the children and staff from the Challis Elementary came through in a big way, Gregory said. By the beginning of the second week, the $800 goal was reached, with several days to go. By the end of the competition, the goal was obliterated and more than $1,330 raised, he said.

The morning kindergarten class narrowly defeated the second-graders and earned the winter party. The class reward parties were enjoyed this past week. The school district maintenance department plowed paths through the snow on the football field to allow hours of fun playing the tag game “Fox and Geese.” Afterward, the winning classes of morning kindergarten and second grade warmed up with hot chocolate and doughnuts provided by the Elementary Student Council.

The last couple of years, participation in the Baldercash fundraiser has come from some unexpected sources, Gregory said. The employees of Lambs Market, along with Scott and Carrie Lamb, donated hundreds of dollars and helped prepare the gift cards we purchased for families in our community. Also, Challis graduate Mitchell Cotant raised money for his senior project for Baldercash.

According to Gregory, more gift cards in $50, $100 and $200 denominations were purchased last year than ever before.

“With much excitement, we humbly helped more than 20 families enjoy a little better Christmas than was expected,” he said. “We’ve heard on a number of occasions how much people in our community love helping with this particular activity. We’ve heard the stories of families saving their coins all the way from January to December to give to the Viking Christmas Baldercash competition. We know some people without elementary kids of their own, who seek out neighbor children to give their donation to. We know kids who contribute their own hard-earned money to make someone else’s Christmas just a little better.”