By RICK WATSON
When Chris Carneal taught baseball lessons at Crestline Field as a college student, kids would try to sell him wrapping paper and cookie dough for their schools. A broke Samford student, he had to tell them he couldn’t afford to buy their stuff. “There has to be a better way to raise money,” he thought. And there was—Boosterthon.
Five years ago Carneal introduced the action-packed elementary school fundraiser to Mountain Brook schools. Faculty and students agree it’s more fun—and raises more money—than all that wrapping paper and cookie dough.
“Boosterthon is a great way to raise money and get some exercise,” said Cherokee Bend fourth grader Vann Stewart. “It’s really enthusiastic and fun because of all the things they bring on the field and all of the prizes you can win. I liked it because I love running and lots of my friends do, too.”
The program, held each fall, has netted the four elementary schools $582,545. In addition, Boosterthon donated an additional $100,000 plus in technology such as iPods, iPads and other equipment to the classrooms.
Boosterthon is a financial development company that raises short-term capitol for elementary schools. Today, the organization that started as Carneal’s idea on Crestline Field employs 150 team members who serve 620 schools and 430,000 students in the Southeast.
Laurie King, principal of Crestline Elementary, said that they’ve had a tremendous relationship with Boosterthon. “The way they come into our school and build community, and work on character building along with the fundraising efforts is just a win/win situation,” she said.
Boosterthon area leader Josh Jacobs said the campaign kicks off with a high energy pep rally at the school. They explain to the kids that during the two-week campaign, the school becomes a team, the classrooms become locker rooms, and the teachers become coaches.
The kids come up with team names, signs, and cheers and work together to develop team goals. The approach is to foster a culture of teamwork.
After the pep rally, the Boosterthon team members spend five minutes in every class for the next six days to discuss the daily character lessons that dovetail with the lessons already being taught by the schools. This year’s theme is Epic Adventure, which is an Indiana Jones idea designed to teach the kids the components of leadership and teamwork. The theme changes each year to keep the event fresh.
All of the activity is based around the finale, Fun Run. During the two weeks prior to the Fun Run, kids are working with parents, friends, and family to get pledges for the number of laps the kids run. These donations are tax deductible. According to Jacobs, childhood obesity is rampant across the country, and the Fun Run is a good way to teach kids that fitness can be fun.
In some fundraising initiatives, only the kids that participate financially are included in the activities, but not with Boosterthon. All kids are on the team and get a T- shirt whether they participate or not.
The finale gets the entire family involved. Everyone gathers at the school, and the run is choreographed with fun music and a DJ. There are dance laps, skipping laps, race car laps, and other laps designed so the kids enjoy themselves. Normally kids run from 4 to a maximum of 35 laps.
“These kids are more fit than kids in other parts of the country, so many of them can run 35 laps,” said Jacobs.
King said the teachers love it, the kids love it and the parents love it because it’s not just about money. But the money is good. “We’ve raised more money with this program than with any fundraiser in the past,” she said.