The tension was palpable in the Parker Woods Montessori (PWM) gymnasium. Students were waiting in suspense to hear the results of two months of hard work for the school’s annual fundraising efforts.
The students weren’t the only ones with nerves. Whitney Simmons, principal, and Jack Corey, assistant principal, were bracing themselves for their end of the bargain: They promised the students that if the school reached its fundraising goal of $18,000, Simmons would eat mealworms and Corey would have his head shaved in front of the whole school.
A makeshift dining table and barber chair were set up in the gym for the occasion.
Beth Schlick, teacher for ages 3-6, rallied the students as they waited for the results with pump-up music and games. When they were ready to share results, Schlick and other room parents used solid blocks — each representing $1,000 raised — to build into a tower representing the amount of money raised.
The results were:
- Sixth place: Green team, $1,594
- Fifth place: Red team, $2,262
- Fourth place: Blue team, $2,576
- Third place: Yellow team, $2,713
- Second place: Orange team, $3,207
- First place: Purple team, $3,247
- (Corporate sponsors total: $2,500)
- Total: $18,100
Among cheers and celebrations from students, Simmons and Corey — despite attempts to escape the gym — were escorted to the center of the gym. A teacher put a bib around Simmons and presented her with a plate with five mealworms, complete with ranch dressing and hot sauce as potential condiments.
With a dramatic flair, Simmons grabbed a worm from the plate, held it high for inspection, placed it in her mouth, chewed and swallowed, to students’ varied reactions: some gasped in horror and others cheered in admiration.
“Tastes like chicken,” an indifferent Simmons told the students after swallowing the first worm, while dipping the next one in hot sauce. “You are the ones missing out on a good protein source!”
Meanwhile, Corey was placed in the makeshift barber chair, with a PTO member preparing the hair clippers and starting his masterpiece.
“It looks good, right?” Corey asked students halfway through the process, running his hands through the remaining patches of hair on his head, much to the students’ amusement.
The assembly ended with the students expressing a loud and hearty “thank you” to the PTO and room volunteers, teachers, principal Simmons, and assistant principal Corey.
“We are proud of our students and thankful for all the support we have from our families, community partners and sponsors,” said Simmons. “Even better is that they met their goal of $14,000 last year, and this year they met an even more difficult goal.”
PWM’s fundraising efforts are an annual occurrence. At the beginning of the school year, students are organized into six teams: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue and Purple. Each team had a mission of networking with the local business community for donations or could implement their own fundraising approaches. The school even hosted a Walk-A-Thon on Oct. 31 to help boost efforts across all the teams.
“The Walk-A-Thon truly felt like a celebration of the school with the community,” said Jody Wells, fundraising chair for PWM’s PTO. “There were bands playing and people out cheering for our rainbow-colored teams of students.”
This year’s efforts will fund a variety of initiatives at the school, from field trip fees to Montessori educational materials and supplies, and more.
Almost all corporate sponsors are local companies, based in Northside or are owned in-part by Northside residents, including:
- Enerfab (Gold Sponsor, school’s largest contributor, and LSDMC member)
- Away with Geese
- Emily Buzek Valentino
- Playground Coworks (Angel Sponsor, helps close small gaps in funding)
- Rock Island Realty (Angel Sponsor, helps close small gaps in funding)
PWM thanks all donors, families and community members that made this year’s Walk-A-Thon a success.
View photos of the Walk-A-Thon in the gallery below.