Kids helping kids

Chanting “kids helping kids,” students ran and walked laps outside of Wapakoneta Elementary School as they raised money for the Ronald McDonald House on Friday.
“It’s about kids helping kids get better cause they are sick,” second-grader Collin Lenhart, 8, said. “We want to help them get better and feel better.”
Nine-year-old Cooper Talowsky said specifically, they were walking to help children and their families, who are staying at the Ronald McDonald House.
He said by the students raising money, it allows families to stay for free in the house in Dayton and have what they need while their children are hospitalized.
Cooper said for every pop tab they turn in, they earn several cents to support the Ronald McDonald House and the students brought in “lots and lots” of pop tabs they collected at home.
“It’s just another way we can help,” Cooper said.
Even after he moves on from elementary school, the third-grader said he would like to continue to find a way to support families and children in need, something he has
learned about through the school’s service learning project.
“It’s good to help families and kids who need it,” Cooper said. “It’s important they be close together.
“The kids are probably scared without their parents,” he said, remembering back to a couple years ago when he had to stay overnight in the hospital and how frightened he was.
During a kickoff earlier in the year, guest speaker Van Wright encouraged students at the school to “do whatever small thing they could to make a difference.” Many of them took that to heart.
“It doesn’t matter how much,” Wright said. “It just matters that you help. Every one of you can help.”
Through the years, Wapakoneta students have raised more than $130,000 to donate to charities. This year they added another $18,076 to that tally — more than tripling their $5,000 goal for the Ronald McDonald House.
Along with the financial support, students also made windsocks this year to send back to the hospitalized children, whose families are staying in the Ronald McDonald House.
The service learning project started at Centennial Elementary School and has carried over to the new Wapakoneta Elementary School as it encourages students to think about other people.
“We work with such young kids, we wanted to get a project they could relate to,” physical education teacher Amy Burke, who is one of its organizers, said. “We want them to understand that it’s important to help other people, others who are less fortunate. We want to raise caring, productive citizens.”
She and the other teachers stressed the idea that, “If you need me, I will help you.”
With all the students’ earnings going toward the Ronald McDonald House in Dayton, Burke said they stress to students how the money they give helps families stay together during difficult times as the Ronald McDonald House creates a home away from home in a “house that love built.”
The school’s 900 students, in kindergarten through fourth-grades, collected pop tabs and participated in other fundraising efforts from the first day of school until just minutes before final tallies were read Friday.
Classes do a variety of projects to make money to donate, often doing the work themselves, from making and selling Buckeye necklaces, chocolate and slime, to selling a wide array of items ranging from spirit shakers and decals to spirit bands and Easter eggs.
Teachers hosted a quarter auction this year, worked at the local McDonald’s restaurant during McTeacher Night, and students paid to see them participate in Minute to Win It games. Red paper Ronald McDonald shoes purchased by students for 25 cents each lined the hallways and the gymnasium on Friday.
“It’s not about being the top money maker but what is important is that they learn to give back, to pay it forward and give to others,” said Mary Beth Webb, a paraeducator actively involved with the project at the school.
“They try real hard,” Burke said. “We tell them there are all different ways they can help and bringing in tabs is one way, that’s easy for everybody. It all helps. It’s not just about sticking your hand out and asking for money. People need help and we can help them in all different ways.”
Students collected more than 3.8 million, or 2,478 pounds of pop tabs, which added more than $1,730 to the total they were able to donate.
“We have a building full of not only good kids and families, but good staff,” Burke said of their success.
Community partners sponsoring activities Friday, helped make reaching the end goal a real celebration.
“It is such a big deal to the kids,” Burke said.
Offering further encouragement to students were their teachers and staff members who accepted their own wagers if the school met its fundraising goal, with some planning to take pies in the face, get slimed or silly stringed, or even die their hair purple for an assembly next Friday.
“I’m so proud of each and every one of you,” Mary Monfort, who owns several area McDonald’s restaurants, told the students Friday.