Turkey bowling at Kerr Elementary a reward for donations

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A group of 22 second graders sliding frozen turkeys toward bowling pins across the floor of the multipurpose room at Kerr Elementary School in O'Hara were enjoying a well-earned reward for donating the most gifts to a drive organized by the student council.

Even though the 13-pound turkeys weighed almost half as much as a few of the second graders in Jim Hart’s class, that did not stop the determined bowlers Friday afternoon from knocking down the pins set up by the fifth-grade student council officers.

The 7- and 8-year-olds donated 29 toys to the Give-a-Gift drive, winning them the bowling party followed by cake and refreshments. Altogether, Kerr students donated 200 presents to the charity.

“They were thrilled,” Mr. Hart said of his students. “I am truly blessed with this group. We discussed the purpose of this contest was more about helping people than the bowling.”

That message was heard loud and clear by Jack Cannon, 7, of O’Hara. He took a break from bowling to explain why he thought the gift drive was important: “To help people who don’t have any presents,” he said.

Classmate Isaiah Reighert, 7, of Sharpsburg agreed as he returned to sliding his turkey toward the six pins set up in one of the lanes.

Dakota Carr, 11, of Sharpsburg, a fifth grader and the treasurer of the Kerr student council, said she and her fellow school representatives carefully set up the lanes not too far from the pins but far enough to allow the younger students to heave the frozen birds without bumping the teammates in the neighboring lanes. Such careful consideration also went into the planning of the gift drive event.

“We thought it was really cool,” she said when asked what the student leaders thought of the second-graders’ success.

Of course, her class had already won kudos the week before the gift drive was held in late November. The fifth grade at Kerr donated the most feathers to the paper turkey on display in the hall just outside the front office. Altogether, the Kerr students raised almost $1,100 by selling a total of 4,320 feathers for 25 cents.

Student council at Kerr was brought back this year by Stan Strzempec, computer teacher.

“It was a pretty amazing display,” he said of the feather and toy efforts. “Our school is very diverse and everybody contributed. It was great!”

Mr. Strzempec said he organized the first student council Kerr had had in many years because of his own fond memories of serving as a representative when he was in school. The third, fourth and fifth graders campaigned and voted for homeroom representatives and leaders were chosen from the fourth and fifth grade. Together, these students planned many community projects of their own, in addition to the district-wide telethon drive, which this year benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

The kids want to help people and the goal is to teach them how to help,” he said. Under his direction, the fourth and fifth graders undertook the gift drive.

“Some days,” Dakota said, “running the gift drive was like a wild goose chase!” Presents were collected, placed in the school elevator by the student leaders and organized for distribuition to Give a Gift. In addition, Kerr’s government representatives made announcements in their classrooms every day, reminding their classmates to bring their quarters to buy feathers.

Paul Noro, principal at Kerr, was enjoying the celebration along with the second and fifth graders and their teachers.

"It’s important for kids to learn to give back to their community,” he said, giving all the credit for the success to Mr. Strzempec and the student council. “To have a group of kids elected and at the forefront and being an integral part of it is the most important part of all and that’s including giving to kids in need.”

Whatever amount of organization and donation went into the celebration, Jaydon Salac, 8, of Sharpsburg said he thought it was a great way to spend his birthday. Clad in his pajamas like all the other students and many of the teachers at the event, Jaydon was glad to give.

The 25 cents he and the others donated had permitted them to participate in pajama day in school as part of the district’s telethon fundraiser the same day the celebrated Kerr’s own community service efforts. Given the school’s spirit of generosity, visitors to the school today shouldn’t be surprised to see the children looking like they got dressed in the dark.

Today  is inside-out day with their 25-cent donations also going to the district-wide fundraiser.

Rita Michel, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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