Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Innocence and Strength of Our Children

Here's another great event that took place a few weeks ago.  I met Jed Grunig 11 years ago.  We became friends and have stayed in touch ever since.  Jed joined RODS this year and had a wonderful idea on how to raise some funding for our RODS Orphan. 

Jed is the principal at Bridger Elementary.  Here is a summary of the event.

RODS Fundraiser -- Bridger Elementary

Bridger Elementary school is  a K-5 school located in Logan, Utah.  The school serves a population of students that has 85% of students receiving free lunch, and 50% minority students. 

As a school we set a goal to raise a total of $2,000.  We felt it was important that we not only raise money for our focus on Leadership, but to also raise money that would go to helping others.   Many of our faculty didn’t think we would be able to reach our goal, but we set out to get it done.

To raise the money we first formed a committee of teachers with representatives from each grade level, and  a parent representative.  We first came up with a list of incentives that students would receive if they brought in different amounts of money.  We tried to pick things that would be highly motivating for students, and would add much to our expenses.  Below is a list of prizes:





Bring in



Chic-Fil-A Lunch


Spirit Sleeve



  Silly String War
$5.00   Aquatic Center Family Evening (Family of 5)




  Wii dance party

Whatever amount a student brought in more then $1.00 they would receive all the prizes bellow that number.  For example, if a student were to bring in $11.00 they would get the Spirit Sleeves, Silly String War, Aquatic Center, and Wii Dance Party.  

Our expenses were $500 to rent the aquatic center, $1 per can of Silly String, and $4 per pair of Spirit Sleeves.  The PTA donated half the cost of the Aquatic Center so we actually only had an expense of $250.   Chic-fil-a donated the cost of the lunches.

The committee then planned an assembly that was designed to get the kids excited about the project and teach the students about the prizes. Helping them get familiar with RODS and the work we are doing.  Brady came and did a great job showing pictures and video that really inspired the kids to do a great job.  After the assembly a group of Harley riders, and Hot Rod Cars did a drive by, showing their support for what we are doing and to the students.  They parked their cars and motorcycles on the playground and allowed the students to take a close look.  The group also got us started by donating our first $100. 

After the assembly the kids were SUPER excited.  I was surprised though by what they were excited about.  A couple of students told me they weren’t excited about the prizes, they were excited about helping the kids. 

We had volunteers from the PTA go around each morning to collect the money and we would count it in the office.  We tracked our progress on a big “thermometer” we created and updated it daily.

The first couple of days we did pretty well, but things really started picking up when we sent home RODS pass along cards.  It gave the students something to give to their friends and relatives that they were talking to about the fundraiser that showed it was legitimate. 

It also helped when we started passing out the Spirit Sleeves that got the kids really excited.

A 5th grade girl that was given up by her mom a year ago, and is now under the custody of her 20-year-old sister was very inspirational.  She didn’t have $20.00 to donate so she built a lemonade stand and worked for a week, making $28 all of which she donated to the fundraiser.  We had families bringing in money that I KNOW didn’t have $20 they could afford to give, but they wanted to help.  Several days I cried as I counted the money in my office after school.  Thinking about the sacrifices these kids were making was very moving. 

Another student told her teacher that he would donate $1 for any student that couldn’t bring in any money so that their whole class would be able to go to the Wii Dance Party. 

I can’t begin to describe how proud I am of my school, staff and students.  These kids, most of whom have so little at home were so generous and caring.  We hit our goal almost exactly!  After expenses we were able to donate $1,000 to RODS!


Angels Among Us...

A few weeks ago we had our annual race in Meridian.  One of the race participants had a special surprise prepared for us that day.

Earlier this year Brooklyn McKenzie had a dream not unlike many grade school kids, which was to go to Disneyland.  She had a plan on how to do it as well.  She would pick berries from the family garden and make jam and jelly to sell.  It was sure to work!

Shortly after her endeavors started she made a decision that most kids wouldn't, she decided to forego the dream of Disneyland and instead raise money for a little orphan who has Down syndrome in South America she had never met so that he could have a family and so that he could someday go to Disneyland too. 

Brooklyn labored all summer picking the berries, making the jam and then going door to door telling the story of this little orphaned boy and what she was doing to help.  One jar at a time she started to make a difference.  The difference was small at first then it grew.  By the time she was done, she had collected $562!  After her story ran on KSL, a couple in St. George donated enough to make it $842! 

Here's another amazing part of this story.  As a team, RODS has been raising funding for months for Vaughn, but we weren't quite there yet.  Our goal was to raise $15,000.  After having dozens of athletes all over the country racing all summer we had made it to $14,500.  That's when I got a call from Brooklyn's mom. 

She put the phone on speaker and handed it to Brooklyn.  I heard an innocent little voice tell me what she had been up to.  She even recited the script she had prepared to help promote the jam.  In the end she told me the amount that she had raised.  Chills came over me as I knew that this was just enough to get Vaughn over the $15,000 mark!  It seemed fitting that a 7 year old would be the one to get our little 7 year old orphan to the goal.

This experience has reminded me of something I firmly believe which small and simple things are great things brought to pass.

Because of Brooklyn's example, we have made her an honorary member of RODS.  Brooklyn's example as well as some other experiences and suggestions from team members I have had recently has spurred on the thought of starting a Junior RODS team.  There are many kids that could make a difference similar to Brooklyn.  This would be a great experience for them and for us to take part in. 

I have a feeling that Brooklyn's work is going to turn out to be something that neither her or her family could have imagined.  Again, by small and simple things are great things brought to pass...

Thank you Brooklyn McKenzie for following that ever small voice that whispered to you "That Vaughn needed a family more than you needed to go to Disneyland."  Because of your willingness to follow this prompting you truly made the world a better place!