GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Jenison High School Student Council members and their advisers are getting an award that they didn’t even know existed until they found out they had won it.
They only knew that they wanted to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The group brought in $10,000 by making the entire 2018 homecoming week focused on Make-A-Wish.
“Ellie Wilcox from Make-A-Wish called and said, ‘I went behind your back and did something. We nominated you for the Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy Award. It’s a really big deal, high schools don’t typically get this, and you won!’ And I was like, ‘What?'” Tracy Mossburger, a student council adviser for Jenison, recalled.
The project started nine years ago when a parent approached the school after her son had his wish fulfilled. She asked if the school would be interested in incorporating a fundraiser into homecoming week, and Mossburger and the students jumped at the opportunity. They raised $15,000 the first year and decided to make it a tradition every four years.
Cassidi Hill, now a senior, was the head of one of the committees charged with organizing events last year. She said the best part was meeting a young boy named Kai who had already seen his wish granted. It turned a fundraiser into a life changer.
“At first it was just the title of ‘Make-A-Wish Homecoming’ — that’s all we saw it as. But then we heard all the stories, met the kids, were able to interact with them, and I think it became so much more,” she explained.
Each grade hosted a Make-A-Wish kid for the week, inviting them to various functions, including float decorating. Emma Scott, also a senior, could see the change in her classmates after meeting Kai and seeing his enthusiasm.
“The first couple days, we struggled to get kids to come to float building,” she recalled. “As soon as (Kai) came, it seemed like the kids who were there that day just kept coming back and they would ask, ‘Is Kai coming back today? I want to see Kai!'”
Sydney Addington, also the head of a committee, was so moved by her experience that it may influence her future plans.
“I’ve always wanted to be a doctor and that made me want to focus on working with kids more,” she said.
One of the events the students organized was called the “Miracle Minute” at the pep rally, when they passed around buckets for one minute and asked the students to put money in. Emma Scott said it was a huge success and something of a surprise.
“Having high schoolers take out their own money that they’ve earned through their own jobs and donate it to this cause after seeing those kids down on our basketball court in our gym was so incredibly powerful, to see the students willing to give what they’ve earned to someone else,” she said.
The advisers found out about the philanthropy award over the summer but waited until mid-September to surprise the kids with the news.
They will attend the National Philanthropy Day luncheon in Grand Rapids on Nov. 12 to accept the award.