Marin IJ Covers Children for Change

Marin Independent Journal - June 13, 2016 
Students raise $22K for clean water in Ecuador 

By Janis Mara

It’s just after dismissal at Wade Thomas Elementary School in San Anselmo, and dozens of children are mobbing a courtyard table where students in bright blue T-shirts are selling rafiki bracelets. “It’s like this every time we have a sale,” said Amy Blanchard, a parent volunteer with Ross Valley Free the Children. The student-led club, whose members volunteer in the community and lead fundraising drives, raised $22,000 this school year to help provide clean water in Ecuador.

“I enjoy helping people who don’t have a lot of things we have — like clean water,” said Mina Swaim, 10, one of the many children sporting the blue T-shirts inscribed with “Bring out the good.”

Free The Children is an international charity that works with schools to educate and empower students ages 8 to 14. As the name suggests, Ross Valley Free the Children is the Ross Valley School District’s chapter. The club launched two years ago at the Wade Thomas school, where it has 40 members. Participation expanded to 40 at White Hill Middle School this year and 25 at Manor Elementary. Brookside is just getting started, Blanchard said.

“I like to help out,” said Nicholas Lillevand, 10, as he stood in line to buy a bracelet. “I want to give back.”

The bracelets, made of tiny multicolored beads, are just a small part of the club’s activities. It also used lemonade stands, bake sales, organized walks and clothing drives, said Annelise Bauer, a school board member who is also a volunteer. “It’s fun. We get to do a lot of activities. We did Walk for Water. We hiked to the top of Bald Hill,” said Rowan Forte, 10.

The Walk for Water was the centerpiece of this year’s fundraising. More than 250 people participated in the walk from Wade Thomas to the top of the hill. “The kids designed the logo,” a drop of water with the words “Walk for Water” inside, said Helen Badger, a San Anselmo parent and teacher.

“We talked about ways to market (the walk),” Badger said. “They came up with a list of downtown businesses, then visited them and asked for sponsorships.”

Sponsors included Tam Realty, Haney Orthodontics, Hint Water and Tamalpais Pediatrics. “We had a student announcer and a raffle. Kid sold tickets in their neighborhoods,” Bauer said. “We had a DJ and a fire truck.” Third-grade teacher Mary Stratton said, “Our turnout at Walk for Water was amazing. I’m super excited to have the kids working for a cause.” In addition to fundraising, the students volunteer in the community.

“We fed the homeless as part of REST,” Badger said. That program provides rotating emergency shelter for homeless people during the cold fall, winter and early spring months. Hallea Carroll, 8, said her favorite activity was packaging goods at the food bank. “The most fun part was the thought that you’re going to help children,” Hallea said. “It feels really good because you are helping.”

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Fiscal Impact

  • $10,000 raised to build a school in Ghana
  • $22,000 raised to bring clean water to Ecuador
  • $20,000 to support local organizations that help individuals in a homeless situation, special needs and animal welfare.

“Children for Change is an example of the incredible impacts made by a group of dedicated students and their families working together to create positive change. This inspiring group has fundraised over $30,000 for the WE Villages program. Through initiatives like collecting cans for their local food bank, bake sales, selling rafiki friendship bracelets, and putting on an amazing water walk; the group has made a huge difference in both their local and global community. Our organization would like to thank them for their amazing efforts and honor them as one of WE’s top ambassador clubs in Northern California.” - Christie Holmes, WE Schools Manager, California

Community Impact

"I really feel like our connection with C4C has greatly expanded our presence in the community-at-large ... and for that, I'm especially grateful. Enjoy the pictures, and I hope you can feel the energy being created!"

-REST Program - Joy Snyder, Director REST Program

"Meritage Medical Network is proud to support the annual C4C Challenge hike and a new generation of global citizens. We believe that to do good means starting locally, in our community, and this is a perfect partner for us in pursuit of this mission. We are honored to be involved with Children for Change."

- Marcy, Meritage Medical

"I want to share with you how much of an impact our Wednesday nights with C4C are having already. Because of our C4C Game Nights, our Gilead families are interacting and playing and the evenings are running quite smoothly. Our director Renee was present to observe this and she was just astounded by the difference. I contribute this to two things. The C4C volunteers, moms and children alike, have modeled excellent, normal, relaxed home behavior. You see them interacting with each other, being silly but respectful, just being kids who's main job is to play. The other factor is they really enjoy the Wednesday game nights. Our families have embraced the fun. They look forward to it every week. This would not have been the case if I had tried to instruct them and show them on my own. It takes a community for our program to be successful. I am so glad your team has come along side us to be part of our community."

-  Phoebe, House Manager of Gilead House