How do you lead a school fundraiser when all the kids are remote learning from home? With a little creativity and a lot of online organization! For its annual Read-A-Thon, the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) at Union Ridge Elementary had to think outside the box, changing their usual classroom and school-based fundraising to activities that could be done online or at home. They ended up creating a lot of fun for hundreds of kids.
The Read-A-Thon is the largest annual fundraiser for Union Ridge, with 100% of the proceeds going to fund school activities and teacher grants. And the PTO also wanted to encourage students to take a break from online learning to enjoy a good book. So, they spent some time figuring out creative ways to make the Read-A-Thon happen. They ended up with several Read-A-Thon activities: a reading Bingo card that could be completed at home, videos of local celebrities reading children’s books, and photo contests on Facebook.
Colton Zirkle had fun reading for the Read-A-Thon Bingo game. Photo credit: Amber Zirkle
Students still raised money with pledges for reading—but the PTO used an online site for donations instead of cash and checks. Every student who raised $10 or more received a prize. Corporate donors provided prizes for top winners—an Apple iPad Mini and Amazon Kindle Fire from iQ Credit Union, a Nintendo Switch Lite from MAJ Commercial Real Estate, and a gift card from Vinnie’s Pizza. Students raised an impressive total of $8400, with Rylee Roth, Grayson Ashenfelter, Madeline Sullens, and Robert Kenck taking top honors.
The Bingo card activity gave students some creative ways to read to fulfill their pledges, like reading to a pet or stuffed animal, reading in the bathtub, or reading in your pajamas. They completed as many options as they could before emailing their Bingo cards to the PTO. Winners were randomly selected and included Avery Smith, Austin Freeman, Lola Dipzinski, and Eli Stone. Several prizes were also awarded through a Facebook contest for pictures of kids reading in the unusual places suggested on the reading Bingo cards.
The Read-A-Thon Bingo card gave students lots of fun ideas for reading.
First grader Alina McMillan read a book outdoors with the Halloween decorations. She and her twin sister, Jaelynn, loved participating in the Read-A-Thon. Photo credit: Jill McMillan
Instead of the in-person book readings they held in previous years, the PTO asked local celebrities to submit videos of themselves reading books. Every week, the PTO posted new videos on Facebook and on their webpage. Two favorites were Rally, the mascot for the Ridgefield Raptors West Coast League baseball team, reading Mice at Bat from the stadium seats, and Ridgefield Police Department Officer Tyler King reading If You Give a Moose a Muffin from the driver’s seat of a police car.
Students could also participate in a door decorating contest. They picked a book theme, then decorated a door or window at home. Naomi Heim, Eli Stone, and Madeline Sullens came up with the clever winning designs.
Naomi Heim decorated her family's front door with a Harry Potter theme: Platform 9 3/4. Photo credit: Jamie Heim
The final Read-A-Thon event was on November 3, with reading related activities in virtual classrooms. And just for fun, the school also announced a Spirit Day to celebrate, with kids in pajamas and crazy hairstyles for their online classes. Principal Angie Gaub was grateful for the PTO’s extra efforts to hold the Read-A-Thon. “It encourages literacy, and it’s a lot of fun for the kids to participate!”
PTO Co-President Heidi Rashoff was proud of how well the students, families, and teachers adapted to the changes in the event. “It has been so exciting to be able to continue to do fundraisers and events from home for the kids!” she said. Hopefully the students at Union Ridge Elementary will be inspired by all of the fun Read-A-Thon activities and find a lifelong love of reading.