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Sandy Journal

Principals put the ‘fun’ in fundraisers

Feb 05, 2019 01:39PM ● By Julie Slama

Ride ’em cowboy! Park Lane Principal Justin Jeffery waves to students before he gets bucked from a mechanical bull in a school assembly to celebrate his students earning $18,000 to help with PTA activities and support classroom supplies. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama|[email protected]

Kiss a pig? Become a human ice cream sundae? Camp on the roof? If it motivates students, count most elementary school principals in.

And count in the students.

“The kids were really excited, cheering, clapping, squealing louder than the pig,” said Draper Elementary Principal Christy Waddell, who dressed as a farmer and kissed a pig Nov. 9 to celebrate her school raising $26,000 at their annual fun run. “It wasn’t that bad. I’d say less gross and not as slobbery as kissing a dog.”

Waddell, who said she’s taken a pie in the face and has been a human ice cream sundae, said this was her favorite: “It didn’t get as messy.”

She’s a believer that “doing something different and unusual” motivates students. She said her custodian even has helped out by dressing up as a fairy to inspire students.

“We don’t have students earn junk. We prefer to do things that will get them excited. And most students respond. We had more students return envelopes with donations so they could see me kiss a pig,” she said, adding that she ran some with the students during the fun run.

Waddell isn’t alone. This year, Woodstock Principal Brenda Zimmerman, in Murray, also kissed a pig as a reward for her students when they raised $11,700, surpassing last year’s mark by $4,000. The money will be used for structured physical education equipment, safety equipment, field trips, books and for other programs.

“It was warm, gross and wet, but he’s so cute,” she said afterward. “I’ll do about anything to make them smile and laugh. Kissing a pig totally worked for them to bring in more money.”

Paraeducator and PTA member Kay Forbush said it’s part the idea and part the person involved that makes it successful.

“It’s different and the kids are having fun,” she said. “The kids love animals and the principal hams it up for this and it’s a winning combination for them.”

PTA member Robyn Ivins said Zimmerman has sung karaoke in front of the school to inspire students, and former principal Yvonne Pearson played the part of a superhero who was locked up in her office unless students met a reading goal, she’s walked the plank, and even had honey poured on her head before adding Honey Nut Cheerios to inspire students.

“They’re willing to have fun and it sets the mood of the school so the students are more willing to become involved,” she said.

Two years ago, Liberty Elementary Principal Jill Burnside and members of her staff in Murray School District allowed students to turn them into ice cream sundaes, complete with syrup, sprinkles and whipping cream after a successful fun run fundraiser. 

Last spring, students raised more than $15,000 to make the school have a 1:1 ratio of Chromebooks and technology. Their additional motivation? Watching faculty and staff in a food fight.

“It was fun to watch all the teachers grab food and throw it,” said now third-grader Samantha Boss. “It got us wanting to do well to see that the teachers would do a real silly thing for us.”

Often PTA presidents and members are involved in either the motivation idea or in taking part. 

At Edgemont Elementary in Sandy, the top incentive for the fun run was to take silly string to Principal Cathy Schino, said Jeannine Cardenaz, who is the fundraising chair along with Katherine Wojnowski.

“We wanted something fun and unique, but not mean,” Cardenaz said. “Everyone loves silly string so it was perfect. It definitely helps when we tell students that the principal is willing to do something fun. They get excited and really motivated.”

Schino took the silly string in stride, even dancing around after being decorated with it.

“It’s very fun, soft, gooey and slippery, which made it fun to dance,” she said Nov. 5.

Edgemont Elementary Principal Cathy Schino danced with silly string as a reward for her students. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

 Sandy’s Park Lane Principal Justin Jeffery used his Texas background to ride a mechanical bull to celebrate his students reaching $18,000, which in addition to supporting several PTA activities, also will go to support teachers with supplies to reduce the amount of out-of-pocket costs they incur, he said.

“Riding a bull for them is a fun celebration of their achievement, but it’s also an interactive opportunity for them to see me and faculty do something to honor them,” he said, adding that he has been duct-taped to a wall, slept on a roof, had his hair temporarily dyed and taken a pie in the face. “I stopped doing the pie when one girl said ‘even though you said it’s OK, I don’t want to pie you.’ We want it to be fun for them without being humiliating or unsafe.”

However, what might not work at one school works for another. Elk Meadows Principal Aaron Ichimura, in South Jordan, allowed students to throw pies, the sixth annual motivator, after the students raised more than $20,000.

“He’s the best principal,” PTA President Dara Evans said. “He’s so engaged and the kids love him. He is motivated to make each of them feel special, even singing happy birthday to them on his ukulele.”

Evans said there are several incentive levels for students, but the whipping cream pies are entertaining and don’t cost much money, so they don’t “eat up the profit.”

Another inexpensive reward for students is sleeping on the roof, which Ridgecrest Principal Julie Winfree and PTA President Marci Cardon did at the Cottonwood Heights school this fall.

“I talked to other principals who have done it and got the idea of sending down a bucket so students could write notes to us,” she said. “We read those by flashlight that night and they were the cutest notes. The kids had such a great time doing that. We even ordered pizza and when it was delivered, it was sent up in the bucket.”

Ridgecrest students raised about $30,000 from their fun run that paid for a new sound system, helping the school get to 1:1 on technology in addition to helping pay for field trips, class parties and before- and after-school programs.

“I think they were excited that we were sleeping on their roof,” Winfree said. “If a principal is more willing to do something, then they’re more willing to do their part.”

At Alta View Elementary in Sandy, Principal Scott Jameson allowed students to create him into an ice cream sundae and he had fun with it, wearing a mask, snorkel and flippers.

Alta View parent Christa Nielsen appreciates the effort. 

“It shows kids that principals are involved in the schools and want to help them be successful,” she said. “They want them to be motivated.”

Second-grader Brooklyn McRae was excited.

“I was so excited for him,” she said. “He got really messy with lots of confetti and whipping cream and the red syrup.”

Jameson said he didn’t mind.

“I’m up for anything crazy because I really believe it helps a ton,” he said.

Jameson is true to his word. In the past, students have painted his car, ridden a unicycle dressed as a clown, been slimed, been duct-taped to a wall, eaten bugs and taken a pie to his face.

“It’s all pretty good, and it helps get the majority of students reading, learning, or doing well at their fundraisers,” he said. “And that’s what we’re here for, helping students be successful.”