Not your ordinary fundraiser: South Mesa Elementary wraps up second year of performing acts of kindness

ST. GEORGEWhile staff and students at many schools are hoping to leave certain aspects of their 2020-21 school year in the past, South Mesa Elementary School had so much success with a new fundraiser last year that it brought back the program for round two.

Students at South Mesa Elementary gave service in many different ways as they worked to perform acts of kindness, Location and date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Sara Patchett, St. George News

Rather than selling something door to door or organizing a community bake sale, South Mesa students spent weeks offering service in their homes, neighborhoods and classrooms.

Through the online fundraising platform Raise Craze, students reported their acts of kindness and asked for donations from parents, family friends and distant relatives.

Heidi Sorensen, whose daughter Elsie attends the elementary as a fourth grader, said she was happy to see the fundraiser return because of the effect it has on her child’s habits.

“I love the fact that we’re doing a fundraiser that is benefiting the community and families instead of just parents giving their money and getting cookie dough or something like that,” Sorensen said. “It takes kids out of their self-centered behavior – instead of thinking about themselves or what they want to do they start thinking about little things they can do to help other people.”

Teachers, administration and staff at South Mesa Elementary dance and cheer in celebration of the fundraiser’s success, St. George, Utah, Sept. 16, 2021 | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News

On Thursday, the school held a closing assembly to celebrate the fundraiser’s end. South Mesa Elementary students raised $21,783 and performed 1,414 acts of kindness – surpassing last year’s totals by a wide margin.

Students that led their grade in total donations or acts of kindness were recognized at the assembly, and the classrooms that led in money raised or service were rewarded with a movie day/popcorn party.

Since the third grade class of Tessa Wieland led both categories, her students chose to donate one of their parties to the runner-up in a final act of kindness.

The funds raised will be used to purchase more soccer goals and install benches on the playground for students to sit and eat lunch outside. The remaining money will be used for after-school programs and for small things like a popcorn machine and cotton candy machine for the school to use at celebrations or as a reward for students.

Students who performed the most acts of kindness in each grade were recognized at the closing assembly, St. George, Utah, Sept. 16, 2021 | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News

The fundraiser was overseen by the school’s parent teacher association and led by Sara Patchett, PTA president for the elementary school. Patchett said that no act of kindness was too small or too big – the goal was just to motivate the children to be kind.

“The kids were so excited to do their acts of kindness, and they’d come every day and say, ‘Oh, I didn’t do an act of kindness yesterday, but I’m going to do it tonight,’” Patchett said.

In total, 283 students registered to participate through the Raise Craze platform, and over 1,442 emails were sent by students to ask for pledges or to share their experiences with service.

Ginny Nobis, principal at South Mesa, said she saw numerous examples of kindness from students, many of which were directed to people who don’t usually get a spotlight. Nobis recalled her favorite example from this year’s fundraiser:

I was in the office, and our mail carrier came in and said, ‘What is happening here?’ I said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’’ and she replied, ‘I am getting mail from your kids all the time. I’m getting thank you notes telling me how grateful they are for all that I do and that I bring the mail, rain or shine. I’ve never had anything like it, and it’s just making my week!’

Proud as she is of the students’ hard work and charity, Nobis said she’s most pleased with the tone that was set for the new school year and the principles the fundraiser reinforced for children and parents alike.

“I think we had so much success with it because it had a message, and the message was kindness,” Nobis said. “I think we can all use a little kindness.”

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