Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Teens plan for a hundred grand


When Jamie DeVries, a teacher at San Marcos High School, started a nonprofit fundraising project called Kids Helping Kids about five years ago, run solely by his AP Economics students, they raised about $12,000.
Impressive, sure, for a group of high school kids, but not nearly as impressive as the goal his three classes have set for this year’s event: a whopping $100,000. And every penny they earn during their dinner, auction and live entertainment gala on December 11 will go to the Unity Shoppe, the largest direct distributor of food and clothing in the county.

“There has never been a project that I have ever been more involved in,” said project CEO and student Bryn Kass. “As much as this is a class project, it’s so much bigger than that. It’s centered around the Unity Shoppe, which provides for so many families and children.”
Although DeVries offers a little guidance and the initial financial backing, he steps back and lets the students get their feet wet managing every aspect of the three-course dinner, live and silent auctions, and live performances.
“You would not believe the things these kids are bringing in,” he said, listing items already slated to appear in the auctions.
Laser eye surgery, a new Vespa, and luxurious trips to condos and hotels in Hawaii, Oregon and Colorado, among other destinations, top out the list.
“And it’s just a bunch of 17-year-olds,” DeVries said. “…It’s unbelievable. Coming in and saying we just got such-and-such hotel to donate two nights and people cheer. They feed off one another in a really cool way.
“We’re closing in on $60,000 right now and the event hasn’t even started yet.”
Since the beginning of the school year, DeVries’ students have been teaming up and hitting the streets — contacting businesses, finding table sponsors at $500 a pop, soliciting auction items and organizing the dinner and concert.
“Mr. DeVries is barely doing anything,” student Amber Young said. “He basically said here is a project we’ve been doing for six years. We want you to keep it going.”
About 450 dinner tickets have already been sold at $65 apiece and the students expect to double that attendance count by the time Tuesday evening rolls around. As far as the goal of hitting that $100,000 figure, they seem pretty confident.
“It was something that at the beginning of the year it was like, wow, that would be really cool, but let’s be realistic,” Kass said. “…I wouldn’t say we doubted we’d get the $100,000. It’s just so easy to say that, but once we got going, as hard as we realized this is, I really have a lot of faith in our class that we’ll get it done.”
In addition to raising a lot of money for a good cause, DeVries said, his students are also learning about supply and demand, accounting profit vs. economic profit, and accounts payable without nodding off.
“Instead of just being bored to tears looking at a textbook, I really try to make stuff come to life a little bit,” he said.
So what is the plan for the evening? Those planning to attend the three-course meal will show up at the Grand Ballroom at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort at 6 p.m. After dinner — catered by the hotel and featuring background music by the San Marcos High School Jazz Band — local singer/songwriter Tyrone Wells will play a full set.
“He has quite the following,” Kass said, describing a recent performance at SoHo. “He really rallies the crowd.”
Those not attending the dinner will be able to slip in for the show, with prices ranging from $15 for front-row seats to $5 for standing room. A silent auction featuring items donated by local businesses will be open throughout the entire event and a live auction will close out the evening.
“Last year they raised about $65,000, which is why we set our goal a little above that,” Young said. “This is going to be the best one yet, for sure.”
For the Unity Shoppe, this fundraiser — if it meets its goal of $100,000 — will provide about one-quarter of the funds they expect to need this holiday season.
“What they’ve done is absolutely extraordinary,” said Barbara Tellefson, Unity Shoppe’s president and director of operations. “It’s really wonderful when you see a positive influence. We see so many stories about what kids aren’t doing right.”
Every year, the food and clothing distributor aids 14,800 people during an estimated 65,000 trips to its store. Although Tellefson said she feels tremendous appreciation for everyone who donates to the Unity Shoppe, she highlighted the importance of Kids Helping Kids.
“Right now, everybody is cutting us back,” Tellefson said. “No one feels they can give us money. … I don’t know what we would have done without them this year.”
Those looking for more information or to donate auction items to Kids Helping Kids can visit, call 637-3849 or e-mail

No comments: