Spirit of charity sweeps through Utah high schools
Herriman • About 2,000 Herriman High students stomped their feet, clapped their hands and roared over the final score: $30,012.
The game was giving.
As in schools throughout Utah, Herriman teens have been collecting small change and larger donations for weeks in a charity drive.
Herriman capped its campaign Friday with a Hearts of Gold assembly. There, the final tally was revealed to students, who had been gathering nickels and dimes by performing all kinds of oddball tasks: pies in the face, underarm shaves, handyman jobs. Students come from Herriman, South Jordan and Riverton.
All this year's money went to HopeKids, an organization that assists people with terminal illnesses and their families. It organizes movie nights, picnics and other social events, so that those facing similar challenges can bond and give one another what they might need most: hope.
So far, HopeKids has helped 560 families, including 21 within 10 miles of Herriman, said C.R. Oldham, executive director of HopeKids' Utah chapter.
Two Herriman students have direct ties to the group.
Senior Melissa Shaw, 17, has an older sister with cystic fibrosis ("It's been great to see the whole school get involved," she said), and fellow senior Caleb Paulson, 18, has a younger sister with a brain tumor ("We go to all the [group's] activities," he said).
There are about 20 HopeKids events per month, including Christmas parties, piano concerts and weekend outings.
Oldham became involved with the nonprofit after his daughter was diagnosed with cancer. He said terminal illnesses tend to take over an entire family, so much so that other siblings can feel left out.
"These events are for the whole family," Oldham said. "It can provide a support system."
Here is a smattering of some of the other charity events held at Utah high schools:
• West High raised more than $20,000 for the school's Family Resource Center.
• Fremont High collected $13,000 for Cash for Kids.
• Weber High had an Angel Tree at the school to help elementary school students. It also staged a "Let's Make a Deal" assembly in which it raised more than $4,000.
• Students at Crescent View Middle School and in the Latinos in Action program at Jordan High played Santa to students at Copperview Elementary, a school serving low-income students. The Crescent View students made a stocking for each of Copperview's 600 students and stuffed them with goods. Latinos in Action, a student mentoring program, provided boxes of cereal for each child.
• Two high schools adopted causes to assist refugee families in Utah. Brighton High is raising funds for Utah Health and Human Rights, a service and advocacy agency that promotes the health, dignity and self-sufficiency of refugees who have endured torture and severe war-related trauma. The fundraising goal is $20,000, and students and teachers had raised more than half that amount when school let out Wednesday for the winter break. They'll continue fundraising in January with a skating night and a teacher talent showcase. Alta High is providing Christmas gifts for four refugee families in Salt Lake City, along with a food drive and other fundraising efforts.
• Hillcrest High conducted a food drive for The Road Home's overflow shelter. Nearly 9,000 cans of food and $1,000 in cash were donated.
• Murray High students donated money to vote for a school administrator to be locked up in the Spartan Display Case on Friday, Dec. 14, with Deborah Sorensen receiving the overwhelming vote. The school's student government and Peer Leadership Team run a schoolwide charity, which has raised about $5,000 in past years to buy coats and shoes for area grade-schoolers in need of winter clothing. This year, they chose to include donations to three other charities, including the Red Cross' Hurricane Sandy relief effort. Students amassed an additional $1,500 in spare change over four days to cover the extra costs of funding three charities this year.
• Viewmont High is on target to raise $40,000. Students also shopped for toys and Christmas dinner items and delivered them to recipients at Guadalupe School. Smith's Marketplace in Bountiful opened the store two hours early for Viewmont's private shopping event. More than 100 students rushed the aisles that morning to find the perfect coat and toys for their Guadalupe child. Smith's discounted the purchases and donated wrapping paper.
• A Hunter High science class set a goal to collect 250 cans for the Food Bank. The students topped that target, bringing in 284 cans. Their contributions went with the school's donation of cans to the Food Bank for Thanksgiving. If stacked up, Hunters donations would be about as tall as a 10-story building.
• The Skyline High Balloon Club entertained youngsters at the American Legion Post 71 Christmas party. Six Skyline students created balloon designs for an hour and a half at the request of the children in attendance.
• Taylorsville High seniors will stand outside a nearby Walmart in summer clothes as part of their "Senior Freeze Out Hunger" effort to collect donations from shoppers.
• Cyprus High cheerleaders skipped their regular Christmas party this year to do a Sub for Santa project. The squad held a wrapping party to prepare the gifts to be given to families.
• Riverton High has a long-standing tradition of giving back to the community through a monthlong charity drive. Last year, the school raised almost $108,000 for The Christmas Box House, and this year benefited the Haley Bell Blessed Chair Foundation.
More on the Web
To learn more about HopeKids, go to the group's website at hopekids.org.