Alcoa Middle School students recently demonstrated that when it comes to giving, they are champions of charity.
Each Christmas season teachers at the school encourage the students to bring in money to help Toys for Blount County. The initiative is led by the Junior Service League of Blount County. At Alcoa Middle School, the JSL representative is teacher Robin Spears.
Spears said often getting the students motivated to help the less fortunate is just a matter of changing their perspective. “A lot of times they don’t understand how a quarter or a penny can make a difference,” she said. “If $10 can buy a toy, $200 buys 20 toys. Quarters, pennies and dimes make a difference.”
Spears said the Alcoa Middle School students keep increasing their gifts each year to help the less fortunate.
“Going back to 2001, we’ve collected over $1,000 each year,” Spears said. “They’re very loving kids.”
Teacher Hank Snyder organizes a special fundraiser for the effort. “We do a home run derby and a free throw contest for a $1 a try,” he said.
Snyder said the teachers also did a morning collection. “We encourage them to give up their ice cream money or snack money and donate it,” he said. “In 10 days, we raised $2,020.”
Snyder said in 2006, Maryville Middle School challenged Alcoa Middle School to see who could raise more money. “They raised $600, and we raised $2,000,” he said.
The students raise so much money for Toys for Blount County that sometimes it is a chore to keep up. “I counted over $650 in change -- quarters, nickels and pennies,” Snyder said. “I spent about five hours counting. It’s amazing our kids can produce this kind of money.”
Snyder said the fundraising results show that teachers aren’t just committed to caring for the children, they’re committed to teaching the children to care about others like themselves. “Our motto is, ‘It’s all about the kids, not just our kids,’ “ he said. “Every adult here genuinely cares about kids and teaches that to our kids.”
Principal Jim Kirk said he wasn’t surprised by the fundraising results. “I’m not surprised,” he said. “These are great kids.”
McKenzie Hawkins, 10, a fifth grader said it was “cool” to be part of the fundraising effort. “I think it was really great. You felt good for the kids after you do it,” McKenzie said.
Jaquez Tyron, 11, a fifth grader, echoed McKenzie’s thoughts. “It feels real good.”