Event raises funds for school
By Angie Landsverk
Waupaca Learning Center’s largest fundraiser results in thousands of dollars being raised each year.
“We have raised over $100,000, and all of that has gone back to the kids,” said John Erspamer, the school’s principal. “One-hundred percent of the funds go back to the kids.”
Erspamer was in his first year of being the principal there when the school’s Parent-Teacher Group decided to go a different direction with school fundraisers.
Instead of students being sent home with fundraisers involving the sales of pizzas, cookies and other items, the group’s idea was to hold a walkathon.
Students would seek pledges, and 100 percent of what they raised would go to the school – rather than a percentage of what they sold through traditional school fundraisers.
“The first year, we raised just over $22,000,” Erspamer said.
A few years later, the group decided it wanted to put funds toward new equipment on the playground for the school’s third and fourth graders.
“We had two years of the walk under our belt and could show the event was successful,” he said.
The school district fronted the $50,000 cost and gave the group five years to pay the district back.
“They paid it off in 3 1/2 years – way ahead of the targeted schedule,” Erspamer said.
This year, it was time to update the school’s playground for its early childhood through second-grade students.
Erspamer said the school board wanted to have a stake in it and decided to take on a chunk of the cost.
The PTG covered the other part of it.
The new equipment went in on Sept. 21.
The large piece of equipment includes slides and a climbing wall.
Pulled from the playground were two sets of monkey bars, original to the 1992 building, and the merry-go-round, Erspamer said.
He said the new piece of equipment holds up to 72 students at a time.
In addition to the playground equipment, the school’s PTG has purchased Chromebooks, Makerspace equipment, a piano for the Music Department, panels for Creative Expressions Night, items for classroom projects and has sponsored field trips.
“The PTG does all these things that a lot of people don’t even know about,” Erspamer said. “It hits all the areas.”
Teachers attend the monthly PTG meetings.
When they request funds for a project or piece of equipment, they explain why.
“I can’t say enough about that group of people and the teachers who work together with them and the volunteers,” Erspamer said.
Volunteers helped put the playground together and were also on hand Thursday, Oct. 12 for this year’s walkathon.
“You can see on a daily basis how great of a community this is,” said Erspamer, who is now in his seventh year as the school’s principal.
He said the parents have always been supportive.
Individuals and businesses in the community support the walkathon as well.
“This year, we have prizes like we’ve never seen,” he said.
Classrooms from each grade level receive prizes, and the individuals raising the highest amounts also receive prizes.
Students have until Nov. 1 to collect their pledges.
Some students raise money based on how many laps they complete during the event, while others seek a flat donation.
They participated in the walkathon for 20 minutes.
“Some run the whole time,” Erspamer said. “Some families will come and walk together.”
Among this year’s prizes are gift certificates to area restaurants, bikes, helmets, tickets to a Green Bay Packers game, a kayaking package, scooters and Comet gear.
Liz Kneer, the PTG president, said the school is fortunate to have community members and businesses sponsoring the prizes.
Each year, the walkathon raises about $15,000. Last year, it raised more than $18,000, she said.
“We try to spread it around the school,” Kneer said. “It’s a great event. Everyone gets outside.”
Erspamer likes that aspect of the fundraiser.
“What’s great about it is it’s a physical activity for the kids,” he said. “It’s a team effort. It’s a really fun event.”
He credits the PTG and staff, describing it as a building-wide event.
“The students are not selling anything. We are not having the kids go home and sell things and get a percentage of the fundraiser,” Erspamer said. “And as much fun as we have (at the walkathon), we raise a great amount of money for the kids.”