Twenty grand sounds nice, doesn’t it? Walking on the Luce Line Trail sounds nice, doesn’t it? If you put the two things together, you have the Strides for Students fundraiser for Watertown-Mayer Elementary.

Strides for Students is Watertown-Mayer Elementary School’s annual fundraiser. It returned as an in-person event this year, and here’s what happened. The Watertown-Mayer Elementary PTO asked students to take pledges to do a two mile walk on the Luce Line Trail. For every $20 raised, the student received a ticket for a drawing. If the student’s name was selected from the drawing, he or she got to spin the wheel-of-fun.

And the wheel-of-fun? Oh, boy. For an elementary school student, this is serious business. Students can win toys, extra recess time for their entire class, and gift certificates to the student-council school store.

The event began at 9:30 a.m. on May 14. After a welcome message to the participants and a shout out to the sponsors, the students and their parents took off down the trail. The trail was lined with signs created by art-class students. And with the help of Innovation Hour teacher, Ms. Christensen, the trail even included some interactive signs.

We’re living in the 21st century folks!

When families got done with the hike on the Luce Line Trail and returned to WM Elementary, they were greeted with bounce houses, food trucks, and a photo opportunity. The Watertown Fire Department was there. You could get your face painted, get your hair done all crazy, and play some yard games.

Plus, you could bid on items in a silent auction.

Something new this year was the appearance of a former Minnesota Viking, Rickey Young. He played yard games with the kids, and… yeah, he played a little football with them, too.

If you think this event sounds fantastic, it was. WM PTO President Kellie Nightingale said, “The event is one of the most fun things I have ever been blessed to be a part of.”

The newly hired elementary school principal, Katie O’Connell, was there. She and interim principal Joe Vieau stood in front of the building and high-fived every student as they returned from the walk. PTO President Nightingale said, “I could see how valued those students felt and how proud they were of raising this money and completing this walk!”

Long-time third grade teacher, Colleen Kelzer, who is retiring at the end of this year, absolutely brought it. Her students raised $2000. Nightingale said, “This kind of support and excitement for our fundraising efforts is exactly why I am proud to be PTO President.”

Lots of fun was indeed had, but Strides for Students wasn’t all fun and games. A tremendous amount of work needed to be done in order to raise the $20,000 they raised. Nightingale said, “I owe a huge debt of gratitude to all our members who helped make this our most successful year yet – Nikki Hunkins, Becky Kormanik, Nicole Gohman, Ivy Hickey, Stephanie Cherry, Meaghan Erickson, Chelsie Sabart, Nicole Kochar, Donna Steuernagel, and Jamie Renken. Outside of our immediate PTO organization, I received help from multiple teachers, staff, and their families. The National Honor Society also helps us with the volunteers we need. They help cover the trail, water station during the walk, closing out our silent auction, and doing crazy hair!”

You can’t deny the awesomeness of crazy hair. You just can’t. And you can’t forget about the real goal of Strides for Students either. It’s to raise money for teachers at Watertown-Mayer Elementary. Nightingale said, “Far too often teachers are having to pay out of their own pocket and we want to make sure we are available to provide them with what they need and want. As a PTO, we spend every dollar we have directly back to teachers and students. We help to sponsor I Love To Read Month, supplement field trips, boost staff morale, and give teacher resources at the end of the year for their classroom.”

So yeah, even though there was a bouncy house, they got some good work done. Twenty thousand dollars worth of good work done, to be exact.

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