DUNLAP — Judging from the festive atmosphere at South Side Elementary School, where students got active and interactive in a series of programs on Friday, one might have assumed field day came early.

But it was actually a way for the youngsters to put their philanthropy skills to the test.

The school hosted its annual Read, Write and Move fundraiser to help pay for a new playground.

The annual fundraiser started eight years ago as an alternative to the traditional school fundraising opportunities such as selling items or food. There was also a focus on inclusivity to which all kids need to be involved regardless of the amount of money they raised, said Kris Gingerich, co-founder and lead organizer of the fundraiser.

“We decided to do something that was similar to a jog-a-thon where the students were going and getting sponsors and raising money, but instead of jogging, we would spend the whole day doing reading, writing and moving activities, Gingerich said.

For the fundraising component, the students were asked to raise $35 to contribute to the PTO’s funds. The goal is to raise the final $14,000 needed for a new playground. Last year, the school raised $8,000 and this year organizers estimate the school raised about $7,000

“We’re encouraging the kids to get sponsors and to bring in donations and hopefully raise $35, but really even if they bring in $1 we’re happy and we celebrate that,” said school librarian Megan Morrison, who also helped organize the event.

For the first time this year, the daylong fundraiser was held at South Side Elementary rather than the high school. The students rotated through reading periods in classrooms, drawing on chalk and a jog-a-thon. The activities were coordinated by community volunteers who read and oversaw movement activities such as taekwondo, yoga, soccer and hip hop.

Both Gingerich and Morrison said the day resonates well with the students and is an event they look forward to each year.

“I think it’s incorporating academics with movement and it’s more of a holistic idea where the students are using different parts of the brain, and also having community guests have been really fun for us too,” Gingerich said. “When we started this, we weren’t doing field trips, we didn’t have money for them at the time, and this way, we can bring some kind of field trip-like experiences to the school for them that they might not get otherwise.”

Third-grader Chloe Carrington nearly doubled her goal of raising $35, and raised $60

“I just went around my neighborhood and kept asking for donations and luckily got more than $35,” she said.

 Carrington said she’d like to see the money spent on new monkey bars.

Another student, Armani Gilbert, a fourth-grader, said he raised $35 and looks forward to the fundraiser because he can interact with friends and raise money for a good cause.

“It’s a fun way to raise money,” he said.

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