“When my grandmother was sick, she stayed at the McNally Hospice,” shared Kaitlin, a grade 8 student at John Knox Christian School (JKCS) in Stoney Creek. “It meant a lot to me and to my family that there were people who took such good care of my grandmother. So I was excited at the opportunity to do something that would bless them as well!”
When the grade 7/8 class at JKCS decided to partner with their community by hosting a fundraiser, a few students saw it as an opportunity to give back to an organization that had made a difference in their own lives. They were quick to suggest a partnership with the McNally Hospice—a residential setting in nearby Grimsby that has been providing 24 hour specialized palliative care to people living with a terminal illness, free of charge, for the past ten years.
Kaitlin, a member of the student council at JKCS, shared her idea with others and discovered that one of her classmates had also spent time with a relative at McNally Hospice.
“My grandpa had cancer and we knew that he couldn’t really get better,” shared Sam, this year’s president of student council. “But the people at the McNally Hospice were really nice. When it was his birthday, they got him a cake and threw him a birthday party.”
The grade 7/8 class put their heads together and decided they’d like to raise money by hosting a carnival. “Our school used to have a carnival, and we thought it would be fun to bring it back because it’s a way to raise money for a good cause, but also for students to have fun together for an afternoon,” shared Sam.
“Putting on a carnival was a lot of work,” shared Jacqueline Scholman, the grade 7/8 teacher at JKCS. “The students had to collaborate about what activities they’d like to have at the carnival, how to assemble the materials needed, how much money to charge for the events, and how to make sure there were games and activities that would be fun for students of all ages.”
Ms. Scholman was quick to add that the students took on the project with a great deal of enthusiasm and determination. “I was amazed at how hard my students were willing to work to bless an organization in our community that some of them knew very little about. It was thrilling for me to see them go the extra mile.”
For several weeks, the students worked together to design their carnival activities, collect materials, build props, and create posters to advertise their event. A few students planned how they could use chairs and tarps to create a tunnel maze for the younger students to navigate through. Others put their artistic gifts to use by painting festive tattoos on the excited young faces of carnival attendees. Two of the senior students decided they’d put their carpenter skills to work and built a ramp used to launch their remote-controlled car while the younger students tried to hit it with a ball.
“I wanted to try something different and to make a game that includes things that I really enjoy,” shared Deacon. “The game was a real ‘hit’,” he laughed.
Members of the Student Council decided they would set a goal for how much money they hoped to raise for the McNally Hospice to motivate the younger students to buy tickets for the carnival games. “In the past, the carnivals raised between $400-500,” shared Sam. “So we hoped to raise at least that much.”
To increase the students’ motivation to give to this worthy cause, NACE Executive Director Kevin Huinink challenged students to raise $700, promising that if they did, he would shave off his beard.
“I can’t even remember when the last time was that I didn’t have my beard,” shared a rather nervous Mr. Huinink before the final numbers were calculated.
Despite some unexpected challenges, including a small leak from the gym ceiling and battery packs dying in the remote-control car, students from all grades had an amazing time at the carnival.
“My favorite game was hitting the truck,” shared Ephraim, a student in grade 5 at JKCS. “I’ve never seen that game before, and I even hit the truck twice!”
Deliya, a student in grade 4, was most excited about the face painting. “I got my favorite,” she exclaimed, “a ladybug!”
“My favorite part of the day was watching the faces of students having fun and playing the games at the carnival,” shared Kendra, a grade 7 student at JKCS. Her classmate Kaitlin agreed. “It’s been raining all week so this is a great way for everyone to relax and enjoy some games together before the weekend.”
By the end of the day, the students had achieved more than double their goal, raising $1800 for the McNally Hospice. They were overjoyed at the amount of money raised. “We knew when we were counting the money that it would be a lot,” shared Kaitlin excitedly. “But I certainly didn’t expect to reach the amount that we did!”
“I heard stories of families that went out to raise money for this event together,” added Sam. “It was so great to hear that people care about helping others.”
Amanda Black, the administrative coordinator for the McNally House, was present at the school for the carnival activities in the afternoon and was thrilled at the efforts of the students to raise funds for their organization. “We really depend on the help of others,” shared Ms. Black. “Our expenses are only partially covered by the Ministry of Long Term Health Care, so that means we are responsible for raising funds to help cover many of our operating expenses each year.”
The funds raised by the students will be used to help in various ways at the hospice, including the purchase of food and furniture. “Every meal for each patient is home-cooked by volunteers,” shared Ms. Black. “We also need to make sure our beds and furniture are safe and updated for those who stay in our residences. Also, the money raised can help us to continue to fund programs for adults and children, to help them with questions about the death of their loved ones.”
As students lined up for the bus at the end of an exciting afternoon at the carnival—some with painted faces and others still coated with a layer of powder from the donuts they attempted to snatch with their teeth from a string—there was a sense of satisfaction mingled together with anticipation at the thought of seeing their Executive Director, Mr. Huinink, without his beard on the following Monday morning.
“When we raised more than double the amount that we were challenged to raise, we thought that maybe he should shave his head too!” laughed JKCS principal Bonnie Dejardins.
“Everyone was excited about trying to reach our goal this week,” shared Sam. “I can’t wait to see the video of Mr. Huinink shaving his beard off. But it’s even more exciting to think that we could all band together and raise money for people who need extra care, and for families who don’t always know how to handle that season of their lives.”
Kaitlin agreed. “When my grandmother was at the McNally Hospice, they would go out of their way to make sure that others were taken care of. When I would come to visit, they would get her out of bed and find a comfortable place for her to sit near the piano so that I could play for her. This was our chance to be able to give back to them, and I’m so glad that we had the opportunity to be a blessing in our community.”