Giving Project raises funds, tears for Dalton fifth-grade class
DALTON -- This is the kind of class assignment that should come with a box of Kleenex.
Three weeks ago, Teresa Bills, a fifth-grade teacher at Craneville Elementary School, announced the "Giving Project." She gave each one of the 20 students in her class $5 out of her pocket and told the kids to "help make the world a better place."
The students were asked to then research and write about a worthwhile cause or charity, conduct interviews and try to raise additional money or other kinds of support toward the cause.
"My other hope was to empower them to understand that even at their age, they can make a difference. They're such special kids with great stories to tell," said Bills.
On Friday morning, the students presented their projects and the results to a packed classroom of about 50 parents and family members.
In less than a month, the students raised more than $3,000 to benefit 14 different causes, from animal rescues to youth sports to medical and humanitarian organizations.
"I think we felt enthusiastic about these projects because we got to give instead of receive," said student Ryan Muller.
One project, led by fifth-grader Easton Eberwein, involved getting his class to pitch together and fill a basket, as well as some gift bags, with food, crafts and other thoughtful things to bring cheer to Diane Lockenwitz. She is currently in an intensive care unit with a Stage IV cancer, and she is also Muller's mother.
"I wanted to do something for my friend Ryan's mom" was about all Easton managed to say before being overcome with emotion. Already, several of his classmates had also given tearful presentations.
Jasmine Morey carried with her a teddy bear given to her family in memory of her grandmother, a longtime donor to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital who died from cancer. Jasmine raised $50 by helping her neighbors pull weeds and tidy their gardens.
Inspired to help the homeless, Korey Zink raised $570 to help the Salvation Army.
Micayla Lenski raised $200 by selling baked goods to benefit a nearby Veterans Affairs hospital in honor of her relatives' history of military service.
"This project made me proud and happy. I'm lucky to have the two uncles that I have now because I know that others are not so lucky and have lost [their family members] after a war," said Micayla in between sobs.
Other students raised funds and awareness of their projects through the collection of bottles and cans, scrap metal drives, doing chores, and going door-to-door with friends and family members.
"If you inform people about what you're doing and why, they're happy to help," said Jadyn Grandshaw who raised $54.11 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation while going door-to-door in her neighborhood with her friend and classmate Keanna Rudd and her mother.
"They've done projects before, but this is one they will remember for a lifetime," said Jadyn's mother, Kathy Grandshaw.
Grandshaw also learned that after the project, her daughter put the initial $5 that Bills gave her students back into a card and told her to use it for next year's Giving Project.
Said Dan Grandshaw, Jadyn's father, "This makes us realize how lucky we really are."
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