The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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May 25, 2014

Giving back(packs)

Students raise thousands for charity

WEST MIDDLESEX — Six thousand dollars can open a lot of doors. For high school students at West Middlesex, it gave them the opportunity to make a donation to an organization they care about.

Students for Charity is an organization at the school that works all year to raise money for different causes.

Michael Comninos, a senior and president of Students for Charity, decided to join the group four years ago after helping his older sister work on projects for them.

“It was a good opportunity for me as a student, and it’s really fun to be a part of,” he said.

The group made its biggest contribution yet last fall -- about $6,000 raised from their Pink Out game.

According to Jessica Patton, the group’s adviser and an English teacher, the ideas for fundraisers -- and who the fundraisers benefit -- are decided by the students.

“Maybe they see something on the news or they’re feeling particularly philanthropic toward one group,” she said.

The students’ most successful event is also one of their longest standing. The group began its now-annual Pink Out game four years ago, Patton said.

The money was donated to the Sharon Regional Health System’s Breast Care Center.

Jordan Pate, a junior, co-coordinated the event for her senior project.

“You can help someone out in the process,” Pate said.

She’s also been a member of Students for Charity for three years.

The home football team and the band support the effort by wearing pink.

Students for Charity sold shirts and ribbons, and held a 50/50 raffle.

The group worked with Sharon-based Community Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio, which matched half the funds, Pate said.

The total donation between Students for Charity and the Community Foundation was about $9,000, said Mark Colella.

Colella, treasurer and a four-year member of the group, said the Pink Out is one of his favorite projects.

However, the range of community service the students provide helps them understand a variety of problems people face.

“It’s a good moral feeling,” he said. “It exposes you to what’s going on in the real world.”

The group also distributes backpacks every Friday, Patton said.

Four times a year, the bags are stuffed with supplies and then a group of seniors passes them out to students in need over a period of time.

A new project for the organization, Pate said, was a Christmas present fundraiser.

In December, the students raised about $500 from an “ugly sweater” dance. The money was used to buy presents for children in the district who wouldn’t otherwise get anything for Christmas.

The group does a fundraiser every month or so, and some of the efforts this year included a pet food and blanket drive for local animal shelters, which the students try to help regularly.

“It’s been a tradition,” Comninos said.

Some events are planned far in advance, while others are implemented relatively quickly.

They’ve already got the Pink Out pretty well planned for next school year, according to Patton.

Other fundraisers are usually planned a month or two ahead, to allow time for processing.

After an idea is pitched, the group votes on it. If it has a majority vote, it goes forward to get school board approval.

Students for Charity typically has 30 to 40 students involved every year, Patton said. The group dynamics change each school year, but the main mission of helping others stays the same.

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