July 25, 2012

Drawing the curtains

There is nothing in my life that I am prouder of than my involvement in Pasta for Pennies.

And I'm about to start my first school year without a fundraising campaign on the horizon because I've quit.

I've been - with Calen - in charge of Princeton High School's Pasta for Pennies fundraising campaign for nearly a decade now, but it's time to step away. Both Calen and I had been involved in the campaign before that as classroom teachers and seen how much good could be done with an enthusiastic classroom teacher and a few involved student leaders. In 2004 our friend Amy Goohs-Hardman told us that should would be leaving at the end of the school year to start a family, and neither of us wanted to Pennies campaign to leave with her, so we asked her if she would run a campaign with us to show us the ropes so we could lead the campaign by ourselves the next year. That triumvirate year we lead the school to a new high of $40,015.65. In the eight campaigns since then - the eight that Calen and I have lead as a pair - we lead the school to raise over a quarter of a million dollars ($266,793.60, to be exact) for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society...
  • 2000 (winter/spring) - $7000 - Goohs
  • 2001 (winter/spring) - $12,790 - Goohs
  • 2002 (winter/spring) - $21,532.30 - Goohs
  • 2003 (winter/spring) - $31,962 - Goohs
  • 2004 (winter/spring)- $40,015.65 - Calen, Goohs, & ChemGuy
  • 2005 (winter/spring) - $35,017 - Calen & ChemGuy
  • 2006 (winter/spring) - $39,115.67 - Calen & ChemGuy
  • 2007 (winter/spring) - $39,094.50 - Calen & ChemGuy
  • 2008 (winter/spring) - $46,161.77 - Calen & ChemGuy
  • 2009 (winter/spring) - $38,378.55 - Calen & ChemGuy
  • 2010 (winter/spring) - $30,560.06 - Calen & ChemGuy
  • 2011 (fall) - $20,861.91 - Calen & ChemGuy
  • 2012 (fall) - $17,604.12 - Calen & ChemGuy
That's a phenomenal amount of money, but the money wasn't ever the goal or the thing about which we were most proud.

The goal was always to save lives, and the part that we were - and are - most proud of was watching our students pour their hearts into helping save those lives with us.

We got to become friends with phenomenal groups after phenomenal groups of students who stunned us again and again with their generosity, who set schoolwork on the back burner so they could bake cookies for a basketball bake sale, who walked the stands at the football games selling raffle tickets, who knocked on car windows in Newport, who shoveled snow instead of sleeping in on snow days, and who never failed to amaze us with their generosity.

Some of my favorite memories...
  • Matt, Michael, Andrew, and Brian closing their third Rock 4A Cause event - an event that they founded
  • Kevin returning from Kroger with twice as many cakes as we had been promised and just shrugging his shoulders, saying that he'd sweet-talked the bakery lady
  • Kedrin reporting back that the dog I'd promised him was on invisible fence had walked right through where I'd said the wire was
  • Andrew organizing students from a half dozen other schools to maximize the fundraising potential at every stoplight in front of the then new Newport on the Levy
  • Desmond shining like a star on Fox19, being more articulate and heartfelt than I could ever have dreamed
  • Kevin/Gus wearing an orange costume to poke a little fun at our 'rivals', Orange High School
  • Sam, Katy, Matt, Joey, and a very young Alex putting on the News Team leisure suits for a brilliant Anchorman-style campaign video
  • Allie and Becky being so shocked when I cursed in jest with them as we served beer at the BrewHaHa
  • Sam trying not to laugh when I dropped the F-bomb on him at a particularly tense moment before - I think - our first 5K
  • David and Kim grilling like seasoned vets their respective first nights at bd's
  • Calen and me presenting at four different national School and Youth training conferences: Phoenix, Miami, Irving, and New Orleans - and being treated like rock stars each time
  • Grace, Kate, and Joey doing absolutely everything that we could ever have asked of them and doing it all with such maturity and skill
  • Gene crossing the finish line at our first 5K and every year since
  • Emma and Amit making us so proud down on the field at Great American Ballpark
  • Ray spending a morning in a bear suit and riding crosslegged on a cart during his last spring with us
  • A succession of Direnzi's saving our butts with awesome DJ work
  • Brynn and Emma and Olivia and the rest of the marathon crew screaming their lungs hoarse on the Air Force base
I could continue this list for a hundred more lines and still miss mentioning dozens and dozens of students who Calen and I couldn't have possibly run the campaigns without - Kyle, Emily, Kristen and Mike and Rachel, Chris and Heather, Jackie and Leah, Presney, Robert, Hannah, Sam, Ellen and Emma and Alyssa, Graham, Clay, Craig, Katy, Nate, Chris, Adrian, Rohan, Kylie, Geo, Julie, Christian, - so many more.

And we were always the most proud when we'd heard that there was a new Pasta for Pennies collection at Eastern Kentucky or Morehead or even throughout the residence halls of Syracuse - either with the money coming back through our campaign our through their own...or when we heard that one of our former helpers had found their way to non-profit management a university.

We knew all along that we were making a difference, but we knew it most directly when we stopped by Sharon Woods for a farewell party for one of our patient heroes that the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society had helped and who was by then healthy enough to head home to Michigan, no longer needing to live his life near Cincinnati's Children's Hospital. Two years earlier, Nathan's mother had told Princeton students that Nathan probably wouldn't last through the summer, that they were taking him out of school to visit Disneyworld while he could still enjoy it. I'm not foolish or lacking hubris enough to say that it was our money that helped save Nathan's life, but I would like to think that our stone thrown into the fundraising pond had a few ripples maybe in the right direction - either through the money we directly raised or through the efforts of our students out in the world.

It's time, however, for Calen and me to step off the stage. We're hopeful that the campaign might come back to Princeton sometime, but it likely won't be under our leadership. It's time for some new blood - either to run the Pennies campaign or to start some other charitable endeavor at Princeton.

We won't be giving up the Society entirely, however, as we'll still be holding our 5K on the first Saturday in March and will each be volunteering with the Society throughout the year - stuffing envelopes, serving at Taste of the World, maybe visiting Light the Night. Saving lives through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society something I certainly still believe in; I just need to find a little different way to do good.

I'm going to go flip through a few of the thousands of photos I have of the campaign and let the tears flow at this point, folks...feel free to join me after the jump...



achilles3 said...

well congrats man!
you guys did a ton of good for a ton of people:-)

PHSChemGuy said...

Thanks...it was a lot of fun along the way.