Students raise money at 'fun run'


Pete Majors, northeast Florida area director for Boosterthon Fun Run, explains the course to kindergartners, grouped at left, and first-graders, grouped at right, at Lawton Chiles Elementary School on Thursday.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, January 25, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 24, 2008 at 10:04 p.m.

Parents at Lawton Chiles Elementary School have come up with a way to raise money for the school that also encourages physical fitness.

The students ran laps for about 45 minutes Thursday morning after finding sponsors who pledged a set amount for each lap a student completed.

Officials expect the effort to exceed the income from the school's previous major fundraisers.

The best part about the fundraiser may have been how little effort it took. No one had to plead with parents to volunteer or spend evenings looking for donations and making arrangements.

The school and PTA had a Georgia firm, Boosterthon Fun Run, administer the event.

"We did this to raise money for our school," said third-grader Dylan McDonald.

His minute-younger twin brother, Nolan, knew how the money would be spent.

"We're getting this money for more smart boards," Nolan said.

Smart boards are pressure-sensitive, computerized classroom display systems that can do everything that an overhead projector, blackboard, slides and more can do to help teachers present materials.

"We didn't have to do anything for this fun run, just supply the kids," said Judy Black, the school principal. "This didn't even take time from our academic schedule."

For nine school days, Boosterthon assigned a six-member team to the school.

On day one, the firm held a pep rally during recess to introduce students to the idea of a fun run. On days two through eight, team members visited each classroom for three to five minutes.

"That is when we would encourage them to find sponsors and when we would talk about things like character," said Pete Majors, Boosterthon's northeast Florida area director. "We do everything. Schools just need to provide us with a place to hold the fun run."

Day nine, which was Thursday, was the day of the fun run for the 803 members of the student body and several staff members. Students participated by grade level so that Chiles' fifth-grade Cheetahs wouldn't accidentally run over the kindergarten Cheetahs.

Every student was given an event T-shirt, which had a lap chart printed on the back. Teachers with permanent markers checked off each lap run as students passed them. Many of the older students completed 40 laps, a distance of about 2 miles.

The idea of holding a fun run at Chiles arrived with PTA member Malina Mendez, who recently moved to Gainesville from Georgia. Mendez said that in her family's previous school of 750 students, a fun run raised about $47,000.

"It was fun for the kids, fun for the parents and fun for the school," Mendez said. "And, it was something the kid could relate to rather than selling wrapping paper or candy."

Until this year, the biggest Chiles fundraiser each year involved having parents find donations and arrange gift baskets that were sold in April, a labor-intensive project that would raise an average of $15,000, according to PTA co-president Cady Garey.

Garey expected Thursday's run to at least meet - and likely exceed - the previous average. The exact amount raised won't be known until all the pledges have been collected, a process that could take a week.

"About 48 percent goes to Boosterthon, but we have no expenses," Garey said. "This is so much less work than any other type of fundraiser that it's not even funny. Plus, it's a lot more fun for the children."

Black said time spent on the fun run - about 45 minutes - would count toward the state-mandated 150 minutes of physical activity for each student each week.

"Another advantage is that this lets the students feel invested in buying the smart boards," Black said. "We're definitely going to do this again next year."

Karen Voyles can be reached at 352-359-5656 or kvoyles@gmail.com.

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