Spirit Chain funds make a difference for kids and veterans

Spirit Chain funds make a difference for kids and veterans

Photo: Rachel Sheidler

Fairmont’s United Student Body celebrates Fairmont’s victory in the Spirit Chain competition. Aside from defeating Centerville, students gain great satisfaction from knowing their efforts will benefit charitable causes.

By Sam Barton, Staff Writer

A lot of people are willing to throw some money up to beat Centerville in the Spirit Chain competition. But not nearly as many know what the money is for, or where it actually ends up.

The Spirit Chain fundraiser is an annual competition between Kettering Fairmont High School and Centerville High School. Each year, both schools raise as much money as possible for specific causes or charities. In 2012, Centerville chose to help the family of Cameron Hartman, a 10-year-old community member afflicted with a rare autoimmune disease called DOCK 8. Unfortunately, he passed away on Jan. 6.

Fairmont chose to donate to three charities: Shoes 4 the Shoeless, the Kettering Backpack Program and Dayton Honor Flight.

Fairmont United Student Body and Class Council members were responsible for choosing the three Fairmont charities. Multiple charities made presentations to these students, each lobbying for their cause. Fairmont USB President Caroline Grogan was actively involved in this decision.

“We had a Spirit Chain review where USB and some Class Council leadership members met with different organizations,” said Grogan. “Although it was a tough decision, we were very happy with our choice of Dayton Honor Flight, Shoes 4 the Shoeless and the Kettering Backpack Programs. Their charities really moved us, and we were very glad that we were able to help their cause.”

Shoes 4 the Shoeless is a grassroots organization founded in 2010. This means that it is an organization that uses the local community to gain power to help that community. Kris Horlacher is part of the Shoes 4 the Shoeless team, and he worked with Fairmont throughout the donation process.

“Everyone does not have personal experience living in poverty and suffering from lacking the basic necessities such as shoes and socks, but most people can imagine what that would feel like,” said Horlacher. “Most of us have a closet full of shoes and drawers full of socks. Thinking of people your own age in your own town not having the luxury of a decent pair of shoes and socks moves people to action.”

Shoes 4 the Shoeless received almost $11,000 from Spirit Chain contributions, which will be used to provide shoes for more than 1,000 local children. “There aren’t enough ‘thank you’s’ to say! This money was much needed and is greatly appreciated. The hard work behind it makes it even more special,” said Horlacher.

The Kettering Backpack Program is the second charity that was selected for Spirit Chain in 2012. The mission of the Kettering Backpack Program is to provide food for young Kettering residents in need. The Kettering Backpack Program worked side by side with Fairmont students to raise almost $55,000, which went directly toward providing bags of food to 500 Kettering children each Friday. This donation is intended to help students remain healthy over the weekend and allow them to return to school on Monday ready to learn.

Jacque Fisher worked alongside Fairmont students throughout the fundraising process. “The Kettering Backpack Program has been a long-term partner with the students at Fairmont. From the inception of the program, they have been a rock-solid fund-raising source,” said Fisher.

Fisher lobbied for donations to the Spirit Chain cause. “I believe we were successful from two different perspectives:  we are partners in helping with the Spirit Chain, so we help raise money during the campaign. Second, we have a great cause – how can anyone watch a future Firebird go hungry?  100 percent of the donation goes to food directly to the leaders of tomorrow,” said Fisher.

The third charity that received money from Fairmont’s Spirit Chain was Dayton Honor Flight, one of eight Honor Flight hubs, or branches, in the state of Ohio. The mission of this charity is to take veterans of World War II, the Korean War, or terminally ill veterans from any United States armed conflict to see the various war memorials in Washington, D.C., completely free of any payment for veterans.  Guardians, volunteers and family members accompany the veterans on each flight.

Honor Flight has been conducting 8 one-day flights each year, transporting about 35 war veterans on each occasion, since May 2005.  The nearly $27,000 donation from Spirit Chain will sponsor two flights in April and May this spring and contribute to a third flight in June.

Six representatives from Fairmont will be guardians on the sponsored flights: senior Max Ducharme, sophomore Cora McCaffrey, and teachers Jennifer Borchers and Gail Drummer. The other two volunteers have yet to be determined.

Larry Blackmore is a board member of Dayton Honor Flight and attends every flight. “One of the terminal patients that we took this year was a Vietnam veteran, and he had never been to Washington and had never seen the Wall,” said Blackmore. “He was in a wheelchair and his guardian had to take him to the memorial. We got him up by the wall and he just kind of looked at it. Finally he reached out and touched it, feeling the names, and he just broke down and started crying.”

Moments like these are what motivate men like Blackmore, a Vietnam veteran himself, to dedicate his time and energy to this cause. “For us, we appreciate what Fairmont’s done so much; it’s hard to really explain how close we feel to Fairmont right now, for all of the support that we received for our cause,” said Blackmore.

World War II vet recalls his own Honor Flight.