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South Jordan Journal

Paradigm students on way to raising thousands of dollars for American Cancer Society

Apr 03, 2022 07:03PM ● By Julie Slama

“Le Dad” band played at Paradigm where concert-goers could donate to the school’s annual Penny Wars fundraiser; this year, the benefactor is the American Cancer Society. (Photo courtesy of Paradigm Schools.)

By Julie Slama|[email protected]

Almost everyone has been impacted by someone having cancer, including students at Paradigm. That’s why they earmarked funds raised from their annual Penny Wars fundraiser to go to the American Cancer Society.

“Our student congress talked about a lot of ideas and the impact we have—a couple of mentors (teachers) and scholars (students) whose families have been affected by cancer—made this really close to their hearts,” said Keith Debono, Paradigm teacher and student government adviser.  “After last year, with making a big difference in people’s lives, they liked the idea of helping people.”

During the three-week charity drive last year, they raised more than $25,000 to support Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that has been dedicated to rescue children from sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. Debono said that’s enough funds to help on three rescue missions or the organization could buy and train a rescue dog who could save even more lives.

“The look on our scholars’ faces when they realize a game they’re playing or the pennies they’re contributing can change lives, it’s intense,” he said.

The year before they raised $21,000 to help farmers who lost their livelihood during the Australia bush fires.

“It helped five different families rebuild and purchase livestock that had been lost in the fires,” he said. “We contacted Vinnies (Bush Appeal) a week before sending them the check and said, ‘We’re this charter school of 400 people in South Jordan, Utah, and we decided that we’re sending you thousands of dollars. They were receiving a lot of donations at the time, but to have such a random one from this tiny school half the world away, was a bit of a shock for them. The families were super grateful.”

Debono said the students want to raise even more money this year.

 “Our enrollment is up, and I’m hoping that, along with some new strategies to raise money, will help us reach more people who want to support the kids’ raising funds for the American Cancer Society,” he said. “Every single step goes to the cause; last year someone asked why we didn’t print a giant check to give to our cause. It’s because every cent goes to the charity.”

The school backs the students, hosting jazz concerts, a carnival, a Broadway showcase and other events, where donations can be collected. This year, Le Dad band also performed at the school to support their fundraiser.

Students also will be collecting funds from individuals. Some students go door to door while others have been able to get donations as people exit at nearby stores. Some local businesses also support their cause and dedicate proceeds from the day.

While the goal is for the school to help their cause, there also is a mini-competition within the school walls, with “Kedge,” or a preparatory-homeroom, classes each battling to see which can bring in the most funds.

That is one of the things senior Daniel Furniss, who has attended Paradigm Schools since seventh grade, likes about the annual Penny Wars fundraising.

“It brings a little competition to the school, but it also is a uniting factor as we’re all in the end working toward one big goal of donating money, but it’s still super fun to have that competition between classes,” he said, adding that students in classes try to reach out to businesses to contribute and when they do, their donations count to the class and ultimately, the school total.

Classmate Kelln Pratt said as a former student cabinet member, the experience of organizing and seeing Penny Wars was “one of the hardest, most stressful experiences, but the reward is so beautiful.”

“It’s so cool to see the school come together to raise money for such amazing causes. Just to see all the good and bring about such unity. There are no words to describe the feeling; it’s just a positive energy and we’re helping so many,” she said.

Pratt said she and other students are close to a teacher who has been going through cancer treatments.

“When you see somebody that we love so deeply go through this type of thing—and I know many people at the school have family members who have struggled with cancer—it’s just so rewarding to be able to do something to help,” she said.