HOLCOMB — The end of Wiley Elementary School’s Read-a-Thon fundraiser for the Finney County Humane Society was given the full celebration treatment.

A call for project-based learning in the school jump-started the second grade’s fundraising campaign, where local businesses agreed to donate to the campaign in lump sums or pledged a certain amount per book students read, said second-grade teacher Martha Symmonds.

Teachers asked the grade’s 80 students to read a total of 1,000 books over five weeks, and potentially raise $500 or $1,000. The second grade shattered records, Symmonds said. They read 2,560 books and, as revealed on a giant check Friday morning in front of humane society representatives and the whole of the Wiley student body, raised $6,070.

The amount was a surprise to everyone from the shouting students to FCHS executive director Nikki Spanier, who said she was impressed.

“I don’t think anybody was expecting this much money,” said Deana Novack, principal of Holcomb and Wiley elementary schools.

The students decided to raise money for the humane society after Spanier gave a presentation about the animal shelter’s operations and challenges back in October. The Read-a-Thon was an active way for kids to raise money, Symmonds said — they had to work for it and it wasn’t free. And as the fundraiser continued, students could not wait to get their books counted, she said.

Students visited and wrote letters to local businesses, asking them to donate to the campaign, Symmonds said.

“I think it made them more aware of what’s out there besides the school walls,” she said. “They realize that the community is really willing to help us if we ask for help.”

Now students are writing thank-you notes to those businesses, Symmonds said. The students — a handful of them, at least — are proud of their work, including Justin Rodney, who was bursting with energy over the amount of money the class raised and how many books he and his friends read. He and classmate Ryan Whickwar said they were glad to help so many animals.

“It feels really good, because we’re helping a lot of pets. We’re helping a lot of lives,” Rodney said.

The donation is part of several projects headed by Wiley staff this year, Novack said. Preschool and kindergarten teachers researched a playground and play-based learning, respectively, and the first-grade class designed and built sand boxes outside the school. Ideally, the projects will add a practical component to the curriculum and reinforce life skills, she said, including, in the second-grade’s case, how to care for animals.

The FCHS often collaborates with schools, including student supply or coin drives, Spanier said. Last month, two Horace Good Middle School mentoring classes donated $1,000 they had raised in a dodgeball tournament. The Wiley second graders’ donation will go toward the shelter’s spay and neuter operations and voucher program, she said.

Getting young people involved in the shelter at an early age has lasting results, she said. Students who heard FCHS presentations years ago still stop by the shelter to volunteer or donate their own money. The involvement makes a lasting difference.

And hopefully it will for the second graders, too, Novack said.

“They’ll understand how the animal shelter works,” Novack said. “This is something they do in their life — they see a stray animal, they know where they go, they know what they can do to help them … It adds more meaning to education.”


Contact Amber Friend at afriend@gctelegram.com.