April 8, 2002
Community service with a smile or bunny suit
by Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Reporter
At first, the day began like every other for Woodinville High School (WHS) English Dept. Chair, Mary Britton-Simmons. But on April 5, there was one slight detour in the teacher's regular routine. On that day, Mrs. Britton-Simmons arrived at school wearing a fluffy bunny suit with long, floppy ears and big fuzzy tail. She was decked out in the bunny attire as a result of winning the March of Dimes 'Race for the Bunny Suit' drive.
Business Education teacher Terry Ley explains that the bunny suit race began with WHS students and teachers collecting donations for the March of Dimes in a blue or red plastic bucket stationed somewhere in their classrooms.
Students contributed to the fundraiser by plunking their cash donations in the buckets. Ley tallied the totals daily and knew the exact amounts donated in each teacher's bucket. "Our goal this year is $4500," he says. For a while, Coach Agnew led the race. Several weeks ago, before knowing the final outcome, Ley had pointed out that the right to wear the rabbit costume is a reward.
"If the teacher is 'lucky' enough to wear a bunny suit," he had emphasized with a knowing smile. To encourage students to give to the March of Dimes effort, Ley and his students put together a web site, http://whsweb.nsd.org/, listing the top ten teachers who had the largest donated amounts. An interactive opportunity was available at the site also.
Students could view a computerized likeness of the teacher ˆ la bunny. By clicking the mouse over a teacher's name, the students could see what the teacher would look like in the suit.
Says Ley, "Friday (March 29) was a fun day as the last day to donate for the 'Race for the Bunny Suit.' We also collected money for the March of Dimes WalkAmerica and will do the walk on the 13th. Hopefully we'll donate enough to retain our State title."
The March of Dimes fundraiser is one of many activities sponsored by the WHS Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), an on campus organization made up of 88 students who have an interest in business.
Kirsten Dupart, a sophomore, has been a big part of their community service projects. She explains, "We're a huge group of students, sophomores to seniors, and we do community service and a lot of fundraising." Ley, one of the chapter's advisors, adds, "FBLA is one of the largest groups on campus. It's designed for students who have an interest in business and want to gain leadership skills and serve as officers and chair people."
As the students hone leadership skills, they're also having a good time helping others. Last Halloween, the chapter participated in a "Hunger Busters" campaign.
Instead of announcing trick-or-treat when local residents opened their doors on Halloween night, the FBLA students announced that they were collecting canned goods for Hopelink, a local food bank.
Ley says that people were very responsive to the idea; some even donated whole cases of canned goods. Says Ley, "We didn't just get Top Ramen or tomato soup. We got Progresso soups, canned salmon and canned white chicken meat. The houses were extremely generous."
At Christmas, WHS chapter members helped the kids in the community by answering letters children had written to Santa Claus and mailed at the local post office.
Says Ley, "A month previous to Christmas, we collected kids' letters to Santa from the Woodinville and Bothell Post Office. We had a big party answering the letters."
Posing as Santa, the FBLA students responded to the kids' letters with personal words of encouragement, writing "keep up your great work in school" or "keep helping your parents." Ley says that the students wrote the letters so that the children receiving them would not get their hopes up for that special present they had asked Santa to leave under their tree. (One child had asked Santa to bring him a new dad.)
The FBLA students explained in their letters to the kids that Santa knew they had been good, but couldn't make promises.
Ley mentioned that one FBLA member was used to decoding his younger brother's scribbling and knew exactly what a child's scrawled picture or misspelled word meant. "Patrick would always know," says Ley.
FBLA's most satisfying project, however, is the chapter's current mission to help a 74-year-old Bothell resident. Each year the chapter does a community service project and this year the group adopted Laverne.
"We go to her place once a month, bring treats and smiles, and do lots of cleaning, landscaping and anything else that she needs," Ley says. "We have weeded almost her whole yard, dead-headed all of her rhodies, trimmed plants, bushes and trees, cleaned windows and hung Christmas lights, among other fun things."
Ley says the students are compensated for their work by the joy they see in Laverne who has health problems and is unable to do the work herself. When Laverne was asked what it's meant to her to have the FBLA students help her out, she answered without hesitation, "Oh! You can't imagine how it's made me feel because I have to keep my place up.
"They've been so nice. They've even put flowers in for me. I was so stunned. I've always been the one (in the past) to take care of people. They've been a blessing and I pray for them every night."
Ley says that the chapter's Adopt an Elderly Person project is one of many ways the group gives back to the community.
"One of my goals is to show students it's important to help people in our community and that community service is a way of life."
Ley mentions that the FBLA members have written to Target and Fred Meyer seeking assistance with donations of treats and supplies, mostly garden, in their campaign to help Laverne.
Membership in the FBLA not only gives students an opportunity to learn about business, but also allows students the flexibility of how involved they want to be. "Members can choose to be as involved as they want and participate in all, or none, of our fundraisers, community service projects, social events and conferences," Ley says.
Officers of the WHS-FBLA chapter include: Agnes Seong, president; Ryan Jackson, vice-president; Nick Potter, treasurer; Vanessa Cole, secretary; Tessa Thulien, community service/March of Dimes chairperson; Gail Olson, co- advisor.