The morning of February 3 was no ordinary morning for the students of Coquitlam’s Walton Elementary school. Close to 500 kids had piled into the school’s gym and — giddy with anticipation — had a hard time sitting still.
One short speech later, the moment they had all been waiting for was finally here: Principal Craig Mah took his place centre stage on a chair. A pair of hair clippers buzzed to life and to the applause and laughter of the crowd, the school’s secretary began to shave the principal’s head.
Mah’s public “shearing” marks the end of a month-long Read-a-Thon benefiting the school’s library. He had volunteered to shave his head at an assembly if the school managed to reach its fundraising goal of $12,000. And Walton’s community gladly accepted the challenge — and exceeded it!
By the end of January, parents, teachers and kids had raised more than $13,000, enough money to purchase over 1,000 new library books and repair old ones.
Walton’s Read-a-Thon: Charity Meets Learning Goals
“It was really great for the kids to be part of this,“ says Jen Sing, mother of two Walton Elementary students and the driving force behind Walton’s Read-a-Thon.
“If it’s only the parents fundraising, it creates a sense of entitlement. It’s a chance for the kids to work towards a common goal and be proud of their achievement.”
To involve students in raising money for new books, while improving their reading skills at the same time, teachers and parents came up with playful challenges and meaningful rewards.
- read 15 minutes a day every day in January
- share with fellow students what book you are reading by posting the title online
- students with a charitable allowance could donate to the fundraising page of their class
- be part of creating a reading tree by writing the name of the last finished book on a leaf
- students who completed all their reading in January could get a free ticket to a game of the Coquitlam Express, a local Junior A hockey team
- parents could reward their kids for completed readings with a small donation to the fundraising page of their kid’s class
Sing also recruited nine companies to become matching sponsors. Together, sponsors doubled $4,700 given to the school’s fundraising page by matching donations dollar for dollar.
“Donations were matched automatically, which made that part of the fundraiser really easy,” Sing says. “It’s also just a great opportunity for local businesses to get exposure and support their community.”
Finding Creative Ways to Support School Communities
Walton’s Read-a-Thon was born out of the need to raise some much needed money to repair or replace worn-out books — and to satisfy students’ appetite for new reading materials. But this year’s fundraiser was also an attempt to discover new, creative ways to raise money in the future, Sing says.
“With budget reductions, there’s a constant need to raise money, and there is more and more reliance on parents and PACs [Parent Advisory Councils] to fundraise.”
Typical forms of fundraising, such as raffles, silent auctions or theme nights, often demand a lot of parents’ time and resources, Sing knows — and more dollars spent on events and prizes means less to give to the cause.
Expenses for the Read-a-Thon came to $243. With $13,200 raised, that means Walton Elementary kept fundraising costs to only 1.8 percent.
“This was an attempt to make fundraising as efficient and easy as possible for everyone involved, and at the same time teach kids what it means to work towards a common goal. And if you can tie that in with learning goals, all the better. Right?”
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