Spirit Chain shows ‘Kettering Cares about Kids’

Spirit Chain shows 'Kettering Cares about Kids'

Photo: Hailee Snipes

Bonnie Pittl, the City of Kettering’s volunteer resources manager, discusses the Kettering Backpack Program at the Spirit Chain Reveal on Aug. 9. The program is one of three chosen to benefit from the Spirit Chain fundraising at Fairmont High School this fall. USB Commissioner Kaitlin Pickrel waits near the stage.

By Kevin O'Donnell, Editor-in-Chief

On Aug. 9, student body representatives gathered in Fairmont High School’s Recital Hall to reveal what charities will benefit from the money raised through this year’s Spirit Chain fundraiser, themed “Kettering Cares about Kids.” After introductions from Activities Director Jenny Borchers, USB Commissioner Kaitlin Pickrel announced the groups. Drum roll please.

“We will be teaming up with A Kid Again, the Treatment Away Fund through Dayton Children’s Hospital, and the Kettering Backpack Program,” said Pickrel to a small but attentive crowd of students, faculty, community members and charity representatives.

The Spirit Chain has been a staple Fairmont event for 26 years. It serves as both a chance for friendly competition with rival school Centerville and an opportunity for the community to come together to help organizations that make a positive difference in the area.

About the recipients

The Kettering Backpack Program distributes food such as ravioli, pudding, fruit, cereal, and macaroni & cheese into the backpacks of Kettering students on free or reduced lunch. It’s one of the only programs to benefit from Sprit Chain two years in a row, attesting to its importance to the community.

The Kettering Backpack Program began with high school students delivering food on Fridays to 40 students at JFK Elementary School and now serves 360 students. “Our goal is to serve over 400 students,” said Bonnie Pittl, the City of Kettering’s volunteer resources manager. “This is the only way we can guarantee they get nutritional food over the weekend.”

Pickrel said Fairmont students chose to support the Treatment Away Fund, recalling how “a number of this year’s graduating class benefitted from this program.”  Through the Dayton Children’s Hospital, the Treatment Away Fund provides up to $1,000 of additional care for families of children battling cancer.

In keeping with “Kettering Cares About Kids,” Fairmont students also will raise money for A Kid Again, a group that provides monthly activities, called “adventures,” for children with life-threatening illnesses. The group takes trips to the Columbus Zoo, Kings Island, numerous sporting events and hosts a Christmas dinner.

A Kid Again put a face to its mission at the reveal event. Aaron Kirk, a 14-year-old Kettering Middle School student, sat in a wheelchair in the audience and listened to Pickrel announce Fairmont’s support of the program that has been there for him for more than half his life. Kirk, who suffers from cerebral palsy, has gone on “adventures” with A Kid Again for 8 years.

“Most of our lives are focused on medical needs, and we often don’t plan for family fun time,” said Kirk’s mother Lynde Marwick. “That’s one of the gifts we get several times a year from this organization.”

A Kid Again has grown exponentially, and Deborah Samic, the group’s executive director of Programs and Volunteers, said they weren’t sure how they would keep up. “Thanks to Spirit Chain, we know now,” said Samic.

‘A totally student-driven initiative …’

The Spirit Chain has burgeoned in ways few could imagine. The first campaign in 1985 raised a little over $3,000; last year’s fundraiser with the support of the community raised $53,000. Borchers calls the event a “totally student-driven initiative.”

“Local groups and charities write letters which I collect, and over the summer I present them to our elected student leaders,” said Borchers. “The students narrow down the field, then ask reps from the charities to come give presentations about why their charity is the most deserving of the Spirit Chain money. These student leaders become business executives for the day.”

The Spirit Chain fundraiser continues from now until Oct. 1, when the Fairmont Firebirds face the Centerville Elks on the football field. Until then, Fairmont students will raise money for their charities through a Homecoming and Prom dress sale, Spirit Wear sales, a Powderpuff football game, as well as many other events. Though competition drives some of the effort, the overall goal remains to support the organizations who try to make Kettering a better place for children.

“Kettering embraces the idea of giving to others,” said Marwick. “That’s why we stay here.”

Let the games begin.