CLINTON — A fund-raising effort that began years ago at Lyons Middle School has snowballed into a state-topping effort by Clinton Middle School students.
Lyons students collected spare change years ago for Pennies for Patients, a program administered by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, said Amber Griswold, co-sponsor of the Clinton Middle School student council. When Lyons and Washington middle schools combined at the new Clinton Middle School in 2014, organizers continued to collect spare change.
"It really started taking off about three years ago," Griswold said.
The school set a goal to raise $5,000. Students surpassed that amount.
The following year, students upped the ante. They decided they'd raise $10,000, Griswold said. Students raised $14,000, the most by any single school in the state.
This year, students set a goal of $15,000.
"We raised $16,500," Griswold said.
The money isn't coming from spare change anymore, though. Raffles, challenges and sales quickly raise the dollar amount. The school forms teams, and the teams plan bake sales, make crafts and create fund-raising games – many involving doing something embarrassing to teachers.
"It becomes this bubbling school of energy," Griswold said.
All of the money was raised during four weeks in February and March.
"In that four-week time period, this school is crazy in a good way," Griswold said.
At the end of the four weeks, students are rewarded with an assembly, and all bets are paid.
This year Principal Dan Boyd agreed to sit in a bed of cockroaches and eat a cricket if students met their goal.
"So the kids thought that was pretty cool," Griswold said.
Several teachers dressed up and lip-synched to the music of girl groups from different decades of the 20th century, and seven teachers were slimed with a variety of sauces, keeping promises made when certain goals were met.
"The kids really take a lot of pride in earning [money]," Griswold said. Their entrepreneurial spirits emerge as they plan new ways to raise funds. "It kind of makes that month go by pretty fast."
"The best part about all of it... [is] we were giving the money to a good cause," said eighth-grader Veronica Ramirez.
Anna Current learned that fundraising involves finding ways to get people to give.
"We came up with rewards or incentives to get the kids interested in donating," she said, even if they didn't give because of the cause.
"I'm really sad that it's over," said Norah Balk. "I put in a lot of work on this. I feel really good that I could make a big impact.
"I'm really sad that it's my last year," the eighth-grader said.
According to Morgan Wehling, teacher Eric Slocum tells his students, don't talk the talk if you don't walk the walk.
"You have to actually put in the work," Wehling said.
Being actively involved in a cause makes people trust your message, Wehling said. "If you're investing your time and money... people will believe it's a good cause."
Eighth-grader Adam Deters' great-grandfather passed away in the fall of 2018, Deters said, leaving a request that some of his money be donated to a good cause. Deters' family gave $1,000 to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society fundraiser for that reason, the eighth-grader said.
"The fundraiser made an impact on me and changed my life for the better," Deters said.