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School fundraisers break out of the box in Douglas County

The Solon Springs color run and Northwestern Elementary School's donkey ball event raised funds while connecting the community.

Harper Martineau, left, waves to the crowd, while covered in blue goo as she runs with Valencia Burfield
Harper Martineau, left, waves to the crowd while covered in blue goo as she runs with Valencia Burfield during the color run behind the school in Solon Springs on Thursday, May 19, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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SOLON SPRINGS — Sunshine, athletic kids and a healthy dose of water added up to a Solon Springs fundrasier that focused on fun Thursday, May 19.

The second annual color run, hosted by the Solon Springs PTO, provided elementary school students with shirts and had them race along an outdoor course.

“It’s great. I ran 35 laps,” said fifth grader Sol Botner.

“I didn’t stop running,” said his classmate Addison McCusky.

Older students were strategically placed with squirt bottles. They shot sprays of water, tinted with color, at the passing students. It was a chance to earn community service hours—a graduation requirement—while enjoying the spring day.

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“It’s really fun to squirt little kids with water,” said sophomore Purdee Toland.

Students, from left, Sol Botner, Landon Brown, Conner Stegmann and Harper Martineau run through bubbles
Students, from left, Sol Botner, Landon Brown, Conner Stegmann and Harper Martineau run through bubbles behind the Solon Springs school on Thursday, May 19, 2022, during the PTO’s color run.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Some students embraced the water; others tried to avoid it. Many ended up with more blue on their faces than their shirts.

The event raised more than $1,600, which will be funneled back into Solon Springs classrooms. All elementary and preschool students took part in the event, regardless of whether they raised any money.

More than a fundraiser, it was a community event. Parents and grandparents came with folding chairs, sunglasses and dogs to watch the races. Kwik Trip provided fruit and bottled water. Krista Martineau and Dillin Jondreau of the Solon Springs Volunteer Fire Department brought a rig down to the baseball field to refill bottles and enjoy the show.

Conner Benson smiles as he jumps through bubbles
Conner Benson smiles as he jumps through bubbles during the color run behind the school in Solon Springs on Thursday, May 19, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

“I have a daughter who’s running,” Martineau said.

She asked Jondreau, who was at the fire hall, to come along.

“I like to help people,” he said.

Unconventional fundraisers have struck a chord with communities in Douglas County. The Northwestern Elementary School PTA held an indoor fun run in February, complete with music and a dancing tiger mascot. After distributing the funds to teachers—$750 for each classroom—they found out that funding was needed for summer school busing. The group set up a game of donkey ball, a basketball game played while riding donkeys. The plan came together in two weeks, according to PTA president Kristie Essen.

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The event, which pitted teams of teachers and staff against each other, was a runaway hit. The PTA sold 507 tickets for the game, corralled 40 riders to take part and raised $5,000. Twenty of the riders were teachers and staff from NES. Even Maple School Board member Brian Johnson saddled up.

052422.N.ST.color run donkey.jpeg
Team members try to control their donkeys during a donkey ball game at Northwestern Elementary School May 3, 2022. The event, put on by the NES PTA, sold 507 tickets and raised $5,000 for summer school busing.
Contributed / Kristie Essen

Essen signed up for PTA when her first child started kindergarten at the elementary school.

“I never thought that I would be involved in the PTA. I’m not a PTA person. It’s been a life-changing experience, just being able to get to know the teachers and their needs,” Essen said.

The group raises about $40,000 a year for the elementary school.

Purdee Toland sprays runners with colored water
Purdee Toland sprays runners with colored water during the PTO’s color run behind the school in Solon Springs on Thursday, May 19, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Solon Springs PTO president Melinda Anderson said she joined for her children.

“I do it for my kids … To me, the PTO is here to support the students, teachers and the school. I mean, we’re here to help give the kids the best school experience,” Anderson said.

Funds raised by the Solon Springs and Maple groups go toward enhancing learning, whether that means purchasing playground equipment, funding field trips or buying classroom supplies.

And they’re not done yet. A tropical-themed penny war kicked off this week at NES.

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The groups also work on connections. The Solon Springs PTO and Northwestern Elementary School PTA host monthly enrichment events for children and their families. They run the gamut from fall festivals and pumpkin painting parties to Christmas crafting and a free night out at the YMCA. The pandemic quashed some of the get-togethers over the past two years, but organizers are planning for a return to normal next year.

Both parent teacher groups are seeking additional members. Visit the Solon Springs PTO Facebook page or email pto@solonk12.net to learn more about their group; visit the Northwestern Elementary School PTA Facebook page or email nestigerpta@gmail.com for information about that group.

Ezra Ahlberg, left, covers up as Halle Johnson gets sprayed in the face
Ezra Ahlberg, left, covers up as Halle Johnson gets sprayed in the face with blue water during the color run in Solon Springs on Thursday, May 19, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
Ezra Ahlberg gets sprayed in the face with blue water
Ezra Ahlberg gets sprayed in the face with blue water during the color run behind the Solon Springs school on Thursday, May 19, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
MORE FROM MARIA LOCKWOOD:
Archive Dive is a monthly podcast hosted by reporter Maria Lockwood. Episodes dip into the archives of historic events, people and places in Superior and Douglas County with local historians.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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