While many students off from school during Election Day watch movies, catch up on reading or hang out with friends, a group of Fairway Elementary School students and their families in Wildwood decided to channel their energy into raising funds to donate to post-storm Sandy recovery through the American Red Cross.
It's how they raised money that was so creative: They hosted a chocolate stand across from the polling place being held at the school!
Fairway parent and project organizer Becky Heiney said the concept all started when so many Wildwood families felt powerless after viewing the disaster that occurred on the East Coast. "Suddenly, there was Facebook chatter, and several of us asking each other what we could do. Then there was the 'I'll help' whatever it could be. It started Saturday, and by Sunday evening we had rough draft of a plan," she said.
"I felt so badly, with us sitting here pretty, while there were babies without diapers there."
Because students were off school Tuesday, Heiney said she and the other parents felt strongly that the children should be involved with the chocolate stand. They provided bags of chocolate pieces and hot chocolate in exchange for cash or check donations from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday. Many donors didn't take the chocolate, choosing to enable the kids to keep it.
Parents estimate 150-plus people stopped by the stand; some said they saw the group's signs at the poll, some came due to word-of-mouth; and others said they saw the announcement on Eureka-Wildwood Patch Facebook.
"People were impressively generous, and gave surprisingly large amounts of donations. Some were $100 checks and $50 bills," said parent Delaney Rhea.
Nine students stayed during the stand's entire operation, with 30 Fairway students assisting altogether at different times.
"Hearing the kids talking among themselves about this was so cool," said Rhea. She said she herself even had a fun situation where a neighbor encouraged others on Facebook to go donate $20 to get her to stop dancing. "A woman pulled up and said here's $20, she can stop now."
Demi Fine, a Fairway fifth grader, said she felt really good about the project.
"I am so proud of our kids who came and held signs and gathered collections," said Heiney. "We had even more students give donations after the stand was done. We even had little ones—Jack and Josh LeMatty—who emptied their piggy banks to give us more than $20 of their own money!"
Heiney said when it came time to leave the stand at 3 p.m., the kids wanted to stay longer. "These kids all had tons of options: Chuck E Cheese, Bounce U, play-dates, you name it! But they stood in the drizzling rain, holding soggy signs, to collect money for a cause that the littlest ones don't even understand!"
Heiney's 9-year-old daughter, Kayla, said she was thinking about all the people who had lost their homes, and who don't have water or power.
"I believe that if we teach kids that their voice can truly make a difference, then when they are older, they WILL make a difference in the world," said Heiney.
Apparently, the chocolate stand was a good idea, because the total of donations collected on Tuesday was $1,867.83.
Heiney said they originally hoped for between $200 and $300. Pledges also were made, so the total to the American Red Cross will be larger before the chocolate stand's full benefit is known.