Fundraising Gets Healthy

December 04, 2008 | Written By:

Today we have an article from a recent issue of HSC’s magazine, Healthy Schools. This article was inspired by a conversation on this blog, sparked by Jean Saunders’ post, Beyond Peanut Brittle: Successful Fundraising Without Junk Food. Many thanks to the HSC blog readers whose contributions and conversations continue to help shape our work!

By Kari
Lydersen, contributing writer, Healthy Schools


Selling chocolate bars, cookie dough and peanut brittle may raise money for school plays, sports teams or field trips—but it can also encourage unhealthy eating habits, undermine food education, sabotage family members’ diets and, teachers say, give kids the kind of sugar rush (and crash) that becomes disruptive in class.

Hence a growing number of schools and Parent Teacher Association chapters nationwide are eschewing the junk food and turning to healthy fundraisers, selling do-it-yourself art projects or environmentally friendly light bulbs; collecting recyclable computer cartridges or old cell phones; or even pledging for kids to move their bodies in the popular Dance Dance Revolution game.

These projects not only raise money but have added benefits for health, education, the environment and kids’ self-esteem.

At Wacousta Elementary in the Grand Ledge, Mich. school district, fifth grader George Floeter and his classmates have produced their own artwork on T-shirts, journals, tiles and other objects to sell to family and friends through a program called Original Works. The products are showcased during a “gallery night” where visitors can admire and buy the art off the wall.

“Making drawings and putting them on T-shirts and mugs is so much better because you can't get rotten teeth and you use your imagination,” said Floeter. “And you feel kind of good to wear a T-shirt with your own drawing on it.”

George’s mother Nell Floeter, an artist who oversees the program, said it not only raises funds but provides another outlet for badly needed arts education in the schools.

“We need creative thinkers, problem solvers in our future,” she said.

The non-profit Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance runs a Lights for Learning fundraiser wherein kids can sell compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. The program was started in 2003, and by 2005 more than 200 kids at 15 schools sold over 1,400 light bulbs. Now, more than 2,500 Illinois youth are participating. Teachers can tie the efforts into math, science or environmental lessons.

“A nice side benefit is the discussion the kids bring home to the dinner table, where the children are the teachers and the parents are the students,” said Chad Bulman, residential program manager for the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. “In order to sell the CFLs effectively, the students need to understand and articulate why they are a smart lighting choice.”

He said many schools funnel the money from CLF sales into other green projects such as installing solar panels or starting environmental clubs.

“We’re helping these kids adopt green practices that we hope they will nurture and carry forward through their entire life,” Bulman said.

Elena Mildenberger sees kids light up when they participate in the Digital Dance-a-thons run by her company, CD Resources. The company is named for the CD fundraisers that used to be its hallmark, but now fundraisers based on the Dance Dance Revolution game have far surpassed those in popularity. Similar to the hallowed jog-a-thons, students collect pledges for the Dance-a-thons and use the money they earn for school trips or projects, often starting with the purchase of the dance game equipment which can be used in physical education classes and for future fundraisers. The version of the game Mildenberger uses features a console that tells kids where to move their feet.

A school in Jacksonville, Fla. recently raised $8,300, enough to buy several sets of DDR equipment with thousands left over for other projects.

“My generation played outside until the street lights came on, but this generation is locked indoors,” said Mildenberger. “The cardiovascular benefit kids get from this is wonderful. It’s exercise they beg to do.”

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