Menasha High School student donations help nonprofits

By Michael King • Post-Crescent staff writer
December 26, 2011

MENASHA — Representatives of three Fox Cities nonprofits who came to Menasha High School this month left with checks for $750 and a renewed appreciation for the community-mindedness of the next generation.

After school on Dec. 19, about two dozen MHS students went to St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton to deliver about $1,000 worth of gift-wrapped toys to the pediatric unit for children who are hospitalized.

For MHS Principal Larry Haase, the two student fundraisers that raised nearly $4,000 were “amazing” given the difficult economy, particularly considering the community has some of the highest levels of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunches based on family income.

“We’ve helped out Toys for Tots for the past couple years,” said senior John Becker, a class officer who helped organize a penny war between the classes that raised over $900 to purchase toys and games for all ages levels. “We like it because it’s just a way to give back to the community.

“We realize that some kids may be stuck in a hospital for Christmas and that’s no fun,” Becker said. “So we just try to brighten up their day.”

A hospital can be “a scary and unfamiliar place” for young kids, said Cyndi Wehman, a registered nurse in the pediatric unit. “So (a gift) makes it a little fun, something special. When they come back from surgery we usually have a present sitting there for them.”

Stacy Spang, a nursing technician in St. Elizabeth’s child and adolescent behavioral health unit that serves children ages 5-18, said the gifts are greatly appreciated.

“It means a lot to us because a lot of the kids,” she said, “their parents have fallen hard to the economy and sometimes they don’t get very much. And they’re not at home for Christmas.”

Earlier this month, student council members volunteered to take a cart with jars for each class around to collect donations from students at lunch. The junior class raised the most money and earned the privilege of getting out of school a few minutes early on Friday.

“I’m really proud of how much we raised,” said Summer Wuestenberg, a senior. “We only had like $200 some last year.”

“When you go up and ask people to donate that really gets them going,” she said.

The other fundraiser involved sales of pizzas, cookie dough and chocolates by the sophomore class to benefit its class fund and three nonprofits: NAMI Fox Valley, Housing Partnership of the Fox Cities and Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Center.

“Seventy-five percent went to the organizations and 25 percent went to our class fund,” said Lexie Roeder, a sophomore class officer. “A lot of people participated. Everyone was pretty excited that it was going to another cause other than just ourselves.”

“The whole sophomore class was doing it,” said Hannah Goerl, another class officer.

Greg Pekarske-Siers of NAMI Fox Valley, Appleton, praised the students for their “sensitivity of what people are struggling with in every day life. NAMI is trying to meet those needs with those who have mental illness.”

Lisa Schneider, executive director, Housing Partnership of the Fox Cities, thanked the students and told them that their $750 donation was being matched by the J. J. Keller Foundation, creating a $1,500 boost for the agency that deals with homelessness and helping families get back on their feet.

“This money will make such a difference,” said Emily Dery, communication outreach and education coordinator for Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Center.