DALTON >> For the fifth year in a row, Nessacus Regional Middle School staff and students put their best feet forward to raise money for student programs, activities and field trips.
"Let's Move, Nessacus," is a campaign to students to collect pledges from family members, neighbors and friends while students themselves pledge to run or walk a certain number of laps on school grounds.
Mary Jo Erickson Connor, the school nurse who helps the PTO coordinate the event, calls it a "win-win" program.
"It's a visible event and nearly everyone who is able takes part in it. We get to keep all the profits for the kids and the kids also get the benefit of exercise," she said.
She and Principal John Martin said more traditional fundraisers like candy bar sales and catalog sales aren't as popular anymore because of school nutrition and wellness guidelines which limit the sales of sugary and high-calorie foods and beverages, and also due to seemingly increased food allergens. Also various companies that involve product sales retain a portion of the profits. In addition to events like "Let's Move," Nessacus has done cash calendars, auctions and other activities.
"It's not just about the money, it's about getting [the students] out to be active," Martin said.
This year, 411 students participated in the hour-long self-paced walk or run held on Friday. Students were spread out in various groups, either going around the Nessacus building or soccer field, or running around the track at neighboring Wahconah Regional High School.
Erickson Connor said individual student contributions ranged from $5 to $130. The prizes for top fund raisers include "healthy" gifts like youth membership to the Dalton CRA and Bas Ridge Golf Course.
To make the "Let's Move" event more fun, there are water stations and wedges of oranges given out. Students can make requests for songs that are played over the grounds' PA systems. This year songs by Queen, Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift and Rihanna, were among the mix.
Erickson Connor estimated that between $10,000 and $12,000 has been raised in the first four years of the event.
"The kids can come out, have fun, be silly with their friends while raising money for their own field trips," said Mary Minella, a parent of a Nessacus eighth-grader who volunteered to help at this year's event.
"I think it's fantastic, and who would have expected a 70-degree day in November," she quipped about Friday's unseasonably warm weather.
The students shared the above sentiments with their grown-up counterparts.
"Instead of going out and selling candy bars, you feel like you're doing something not just for yourself, you getting out and doing something for the community," said eighth-grader Shea McIlquham.
His classmate, Madyson Williams, agreed. "It's a really good idea for a fundraiser because everyone can do it and raise money in their own way," she said. Indeed, there is no minimum number of laps or contributions that a student needs to make.
"We just tell kids to do what you can and just go outside and move," Erickson Connors said.
The motivation, said Williams: "Everybody loves field trips."
She said some popular class and group trips have included day and overnight trips to Camp Becket-Chimney Corners; music student trips to see programs at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; fun trips to places like Six Flags amusement park and educational trips to the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams.