On Saturday, the Morris Elementary District 54 school building transformed into an indoor playground full of traditional carnival events, such as games, cake walks and bingo, for the annual Winter Funday event.
“With the weather we have had, this was a great way to get the kids out and having family time and doing something fun and local. We just had two weeks of vacation, but the weather was so bad, families could come here and have fun in town for a good cause,” Morris Elementary District 54 PTO President Sandy Lawrence said.
The Morris Elementary District 54 PTO has hosted this fun Saturday event over five years to raise money to invest back into the school building and students. Lawrence said the original event was created to help provide reading program supplies, but has blossomed and now the PTO can provide more financial assistance to the school.
Lawrence said the PTO strives to “pick up the slack” when funds are not available to teachers for classroom supplies because of the state funding complications over the past few years. Currently, the PTO has also paid for magazine teaching materials, apps for the classrooms, art supplies, speakers on bullying and the Holocaust, and when the school needed risers in the music department, the PTO shared the cost with the district.
“We couldn’t do it without doing fundraisers like this. We have stepped up our game,” Lawrence said.
Just a year ago, Lawrence said that with all of the changes to White Oak Elementary School and Shabbona Middle School, and changes in administration, the PTO had not received the support needed from the faculty or parents and was on the verge of disbandment. She said new White Oak Principal David Raffel has come in and emphasized the need for a strong parent and teacher relationship, and the importance of a strong PTO to support the school, students and community.
“Throughout my career, I’ve learned that it takes a team approach to be successful. Teachers and the PTO benefit all of the kids,” Raffel said. “I show them how the relationships can be mutually beneficial.”
Tickets were on pre-sale for $10 or could be bought at the door for $12. There were carnival games in two of the gymnasiums and in the hallways where children could earn coins to redeem for prizes. Teacher, parent and student volunteers manned the games and events. One classroom held a cake walk with cookie and cake prizes, and another had a game of bingo with prizes.
New this year was the addition of Waxed Hands, owned by Morris native Rick Reichman. He and Margarita Salazar worked together to make colored wax molds of children and adult hands with his travel wax cart he built himself. The event began at 10 a.m. and by 10:30 a.m., the Waxed Hands booth had a constant line.
“I did it because I thought it looked really cool and it felt like something was molding around my hand,” fourth-grade student Grace Misener said.
Preschool student Quentin Holding played pinball with his mother, Melisa Holding, and volunteer Heather Moore. Quentin’s head could barely see over the pinball table so he relied on his mother to help him pull the pin and direct him.
“I decided to bring him because I was off work today and could come. It was great to get out of the house and burn off energy, it’s a fun idea for this time of year,” Melisa Holding said.
Along with the games and food, there were several raffle baskets with items donated from local businesses and private donors. There were three grand raffle prizes. First prize was a Disney vacation won by Liz Garcia, second was a Nintendo Switch won by Chuckie Rodriguez and third was $100 cash won by Kristie Mann.
Lawrence had a goal to raise $4,000 at the event, but the totals were not available as of Monday morning.
Beginning in March, the Morris Elementary District 54 PTO will host a shoe drive fundraiser with Funds2Orgs. Details will come out closer to the event, but the PTO will ask families for donations of pairs of shoes and Lawrence said she hopes to line the hallways with them when it comes to close the event in April. The shoes will be picked up by the Funds2Orgs organization and the PTO will receive money for the shoes collected.