Every year, educator Krista Wasney works to make sure her WE Schools campaigns are unique and fun for her students. This year, with her WE Create Change campaign, she wasn’t kidding around.
By Chinelo Onwualu
Last spring, Krista Wasney, a teacher at Bird’s Hill School in East St. Paul, MB, was looking for a new way to get her kids excited about fundraising.
Krista had been running her school’s Support People in Need (SPIN) social action club for grade 5 students for six years. Each year, between 20 and 30 kids would arrive in her class eager to join the club and take action for causes they cared about, such as anti-bullying, homelessness, the environment and poverty.
It was a point of pride for Krista to make sure that each campaign was different from the year before. For the WE Walk for Water campaign in June, to raise awareness for those who must travel long distances to collect water, she took the students in the group to the water-filled gravel pits about a kilometre from their school. There, in smouldering 30-degree heat, they each filled up a four-litre milk jug with water from the pit and carried it back to the school.
“What’s nice about it is the kids—even the younger kids—know about SPIN club because of the campaigns we run,” says Krista. “So, by the time they get to grade 5, they’re interested in joining the club.”
When the WE Create Change campaign, where students collect spare change to raise funds to support economic opportunity programs in WE Villages partner communities, came around in May, Krista wanted to inspire the students by doing something fun. So, she decided to hold an event she’d first held three years ago: the “kiss-a-goat challenge.”
Members of the school staff would volunteer to kiss a baby goat during a school assembly and students and their families could vote for who they’d most like to see do it. In 2015, eight staff members agreed to take part. Krista paid a local farm to bring in a baby goat and the challenge was a hit, raising over $300.
This year, 20 staff members signed up right away. Krista took photos of each of them in a photo booth, holding up a pair of kissy lips. She then put the pictures on a bulletin board so that students all over the school could see who was running. Each vote cost $2 and students and their families could vote as many times as they liked.
To drum up support for the campaign, the club sent ballots home with students, made announcements through the school’s PA system and had intense discussions with their classmates over who to vote for.
“It added some fun to it,” says Krista. “Rather than just putting a loonie in a box, it added that ‘wow’ factor.”
The hardest part was finding the goat. The farm she’d worked with three years ago wasn’t available this year. Krista contacted eight farms across East St. Paul to track down one that would be willing to bring a baby goat to the school.
She finally got Tara McKean at 10 Acre Woods Farm to agree to bring her six-week-old baby goat named Sheldon. Sheldon was born with developmental challenges and had been abandoned by his mother at birth, so Tara had taken him in to raise. She would be thrilled to bring him down.
For two weeks, the school was abuzz with speculation about who would win the ballot, and on May 28, all 200 students trooped into the gym for a special assembly led by members of the SPIN club to find out.
They started by revealing how much money they’d raised: $414. The money would go to support economic opportunities like goat rearing for families across the world. Next came Tara, with tiny Sheldon in her arms. As soon as the students caught sight of the seven-pound goat, they erupted in sighs and coos.
“He was adorable,” Krista remembers. “He totally stole our assembly.”
Then, with a drumroll played out by hundreds of students’ feet, the SPIN club opened the envelope to announce the winner. The principal, Lissa Palamar, won by a landslide.
The whole school went wild with cheers. Then, Lissa picked up the mike and made an impromptu announcement. She would donate 50 dollars on the spot if the second and third place winners also kissed baby Sheldon.
They agreed, and because Krista Wasney had won second place, it proved to be a perfect end to a hugely successful campaign. Though it’s not likely that next year’s class will host this particular challenge, Krista is sure that whatever they come up with will be great.
“It was probably my favourite day of the year, because it was so much fun to see how enthusiastic and supportive of the campaign everyone was,” says Krista. “I think it shows that adding the fun factor to anything just improves it.”