With a desire to help others and some camera-friendly smiles, three Superior Middle School eighth-graders raised a record $2,577 to help children entering foster care in Douglas County.

Lilly Glenn, Bella Olness and Madeline Snider hoped to raise $750, enough to purchase 30 Sweet Cases -- blue bags containing a hygiene kit, blanket, stuffed bear, coloring book and crayons. Instead, classmates helped them decorate and fill 91 bags in Amanda Lindquist’s room this week.

Each bag will be given to a child entering foster care, providing both a place to put their things and something to hold onto.

“The Sweet Cases help because they hold all of the stuff that we send with them,” said Brittany Johnson, Douglas County foster care and kinship care coordinator. “And for them, they get to keep it and have it, take it with them.”

This is the third time students in Lindquist’s English class have raised funds for Sweet Cases. It was also the most media-intensive, with Glenn, Olness and Snider giving back-to-back interviews some days.

“The news stories definitely raised awareness and we brought in the most we've ever raised,” Lindquist said. “I am grateful to the community for their support. The girls and I were blown away and updated our board daily with the new totals.”

The campaign came at a good time. Johnson picked up the last 20 cases from the 2018 Sweet Cases project in February.

“We have a few left here in our closet,” she said.

Johnson appreciated the students’ support.

“It’s their choice, whatever project they choose, but they continue to keep choosing to help in foster care and that’s really great,” she said. “I think the need has always been there and it will continue to be there.”

On average, 40-60 children enter foster care in Douglas County every year.

“Right now, we have 25 children placed in general foster care,” Johnson said. “I have 35 children placed with licensed relatives.”

Another 67 children are being cared for by relatives in kinship houses, which are not court-ordered placements.

There are 15 foster homes in Douglas County that take general placements. Three of them are full, and only two currently have no placements.

“We’re still in need of more foster homes for all ages, specifically foster homes that can take more than one child at a time, like a sibling group, and also for older children,” Johnson said. “Usually older than 10, children are hard to find placement for.”

The county is seeking foster parents who have experience with older children and children with behavioral issues as well as respite providers, who care for children one weekend a month to give foster parents a break.

“People who are just kind of wanting to get their feet wet with foster care, we can start them off with that and see if it is a good fit for them,” Johnson said. “Sometimes that helps the transition more into the longer-term, full-time placements.”

Anyone interested in fostering can learn more at monthly foster parent support group meetings, held at noon the second Tuesday of each month in the Government Center. Or, call Johnson at 715-395-1445 or Douglas County Health and Human Services at 715-395-1304.