Published June 26, 2009, 07:07 AM

Kids protect wildlife with crafty fundraiser

Fifth graders at Lake Superior School protected gorillas and polar bears with bookmarks, colorful pens and Play-Doh this spring. Their student-led fundraiser netted $101.74 to help the endangered critters.

By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram

Fifth graders at Lake Superior School protected gorillas and polar bears with bookmarks, colorful pens and Play-Doh this spring. Their student-led fundraiser netted $101.74 to help the endangered critters.

“We just really loved animals and wanted to save them,” said fifth grader Mikayla Guski.

It all started with her classmate Molly Bergum’s Christmas present – a World Wildlife Federation poster listing 20 endangered species. She brought the poster to Mikayla’s and asked her friend to start a club with her.

“We just kind of looked for a way to send money,” Molly said.

The two approached their teacher, Lindsey Braman, for permission to put together a fundraiser.

“They are the kind of kids who can do things on their own,” the teacher said. “They deserve to do something special.”

With the green light from Braman, the duo spent three weeks researching the endangered animals, then they put on a Power Point presentation for the entire school. Buoyed by the multimedia show, many classmates joined the new “Polar Bear Gorilla Club.”

“We didn’t figure the name was important,” said club member Ariana Amys.

They met during recess to plan their fundraiser, draw posters and make crafts to sell – braiding bookmarks and painting pens with nail polish. Many of the crafts, such as Play-Doh, were made at home.

Ariana came up with unique ideas, such as turning pop bottle tops into pins.

“She’s really crafty,” Molly said.

As the weather got warmer, the club lost members to recess – in particular, the boys. Anyone who missed three meetings was kicked out.

“Some people said it was too hard,” said fifth grader Cassie Horst. “We just kind of had to do it, go through the hard parts.”

Although Molly and Mikayla didn’t want to pick club leaders, they eventually had to set a deadline for selling items.

“May 11, no excuses,” Mikayla said with a smile.

For three weeks, members of the club took turns selling items during recess on Tuesdays and Thursdays – first at a table near their room, then in a corner of the cafeteria. To make things easy, they sold everything for $1. They sold out of the most popular items right away.

“Everybody wanted to buy Play-Doh,” said Enrique Jacinto, the only boy who stuck with the club. They had to keep reminding the younger students not to open it up and play with it at school, Molly said.

When the posters came down and the money was counted, the group had raised more than $100, or $50 for each animal.

“It’s just amazing how far you can go,” Cassie said.

“We did it on our own,” said Jessica Grymala. If it had been a teacher-led project, she said, “We wouldn’t have been as proud.”

The students hope their work will spark a similar fundraiser next year, but are gearing up to enter Superior Middle School in the fall.

Molly credited Braman for giving them the chance to launch both the club and the fundraiser.

“I can’t imagine how hard it would have been without Mrs. Braman,” Molly said. “She is a really respectful teacher.”

Braman, in turn, gave the students kudos for a job well done.

“I’ll be sad to see them go,” she said.

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