Bingham students unite to serve others, build school community in pandemic yearApr 12, 2021 10:13AM ● By Julie Slama
Bingham High student government leaders dropped off about 500 hygiene and art kits that students donated for Hearts Knit Together as part of the school’s annual True Blue service-fundraising campaign. (Photo courtesy of Marki Bangerter.)
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
Items for 450 hygiene kits and 50 art kits, funds raising more than $40,000 and time amounting to 800 hours of service were given in late February and early March by Bingham High students.
They were all part of Bingham High’s True Blue, an annual service-fundraising campaign dating back 85 years to better the community.
Traditionally held in December, this school year’s efforts were moved to provide students more in-person opportunities since the COVID-19 health and safety guidelines were loosened and the number of students quarantined have decreased.
“We lowered our expectations some with COVID, but now we’re blown away by the response and generosity that we’re receiving to help people,” said senior McKell Singley, who is Bingham High’s student body service officer.
Their fundraising efforts benefit Hearts Knit Together, an organization that supports families and individuals fleeing from domestic violence, war, abuse or similar situations.
The organization was started as a grass-roots effort by elderly widows in a low-income housing area of Salt Lake City who wanted to give to their community. As refugees or women who had escaped abuse themselves, these women knitted and crocheted hats and contacted Linda Simmons, who served as a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints missionary in the area to give them to other people in need, said Simmons’ daughter, April James, who is a Board of Directors member at Hearts Knit Together.
James’ mother became its executive director and would use coupons to acquire hygiene items to go along with the homemade hats and scarves.
“It started in our home, and we’d have piles all over our house—in the hallways, stacks in rooms and people would come over to assemble kits,” James recalled of the organization’s origins 15 years ago. “Every conversation I’ve had with my mom has included what’s going on with Hearts.”
Now, for the past five years, Hearts Knit Together has donated more than 5,000 kits per year to 16 domestic violence shelters in Utah and worked with the Utah Department of Workforce Services to get refugees kits as well. Each kit has a message of hope included that James’ mother wrote.
“Everyone is beyond thrilled and just so thankful when they receive them,” she said but added with COVID-19 as well as fewer donations from Eagle Scouts, it’s become a hard year to maintain their supplies. “We’re beyond grateful for Bingham’s donations. It’s the first school since 2020 that has held a drive, and it is so needed and so appreciated.”
Bingham’s kits will be delivered to the organization’s office by student body officers, who then will sort them so they can be delivered with care packages to area shelters who serve the population.
“This is a cool opportunity to get involved and gives us a way to connect with each other and to our community,” Singley said. “It’s a reason to serve; it’s a reason to help.”
Indirectly, it also is helping the students at the school carry on some normalcy during the pandemic, she added.
“I’ve had seniors tell me this is the best part of their senior year, or others say this is the most fun they’ve had with school this year,” Singley said.
Traditionally with True Blue, student government hosts a fundraiser dance, but that didn’t meet with the guidelines during the pandemic, SBO adviser Kiera Beddes said.
“It’s important that kids can continue with as many things as possible, even with the restrictions,” she said. “Kids can feel disconnected this year, so it’s a chance to come together to work toward something bigger than themselves and to look forward to something that unites our school community.”
Even with restrictions, Singley and other student leaders were able to put in place for the first time, a True Blue club versus club basketball tournament. SBOs selected eight clubs to compete—boys tennis, girls cheer, drill, dance company, boys hockey, boys volleyball, girls volleyball, boys lacrosse—for bragging rights as club basketball team champion.
True Blue raised money by having a $5 club entrance fee, then in the second round, allowing people to pay for “an impairment” such as paying $30 to have team members play ball with oven mitts or shoelaces tied to each other. In the finals, boys tennis versus girls cheer, money was contributed to have a member of the boys tennis team play with cheer; however, the boys tennis team prevailed.
“It was so much fun; I hope that it will be part of True Blue in years to come,” Singley said. “It’s a way to get more people involved and be a part of it.”
Another popular event was Mr. True Blue where senior boys demonstrated their talent and “dressed fancy,” she said.
Penny Wars is a Bingham True Blue tradition, where classes compete against each other. Coins are added up but any bills deduct from the total. A talent show, showcasing ballet to music talent; a date auction, lunch time activities and spirit nights rounded out the activities in addition to opening and closing assemblies, which were limited to in-person seating, but shared livestream with the entire student body.