The COVID-19 pandemic caused millions of families across America to face unprecedented challenges. In addition to health and safety concerns, parent volunteers were worried about raising money for their schools. Cancelled Spring fundraising events meant schools would lack vital funding for future events, supplies, and programs when school resumed in the Fall.
When they realized their annual Jog-a-Thon would have to be postponed, PTA volunteers at Alderwood Elementary in Irvine, California acted quickly to plan a “shelter in place” fundraiser. Using PledgeStar and some simple, yet wildly successful ideas, they managed to raise over $85,000, more than their prior year’s event!
In early March, PTA President Dawn Mortazavi talked with other parents in a virtual Zoom meeting as their annual Jog-a-Thon date quickly approached. “We knew that we had to postpone our Jog-a-Thon, but we didn’t know what we would do without that money,” she said. “In March, it was becoming clear that we weren’t going to have any sort of finality for the kids, so we decided to swap the Jog-a-Thon for something else.” Because PledgeStar’s online fundraising system has always been “social distance” friendly, the PTA just had to change the type of event instead of figuring out another way to raise funds.
Mortazavi and other volunteers had already chosen a Lego Movie theme for the Jog-a-Thon when schools began to implement distance learning. The students were meant to jog around their field in April wearing Lego theme attire, but they knew that was no longer possible. They would need a creative idea to replace it… something that could be done safely from the kids’ homes. So, the PTA board dreamed up an at-home Lego Build-a-Thon. They had no idea how it would work or whether it could raise a substantial amount of money.
On April 7, the Lego Build-a-Thon commenced in hundreds of Irvine living rooms. “We made our Owl mascot look like a Lego, bought Lego prizes, and everyone got a free T-shirt,” said Mortazavi. “We had the students build creative Lego projects at home and their parents posted them on social media for friends, family, and classmates to see.” Students loved the ideas of an at-home challenge that not only kept them busy, but created a feeling of community in a difficult and isolating moment.
Next year, thanks to the quick thinking PTA and PledgeStar’s online fundraising system, Alderwood Elementary will have enough money to pay for their popular educational programs. With distance education looming as a possibility for the entirety of 2020, Mortazavi and other parents are trying to stay positive. “The Jog-a-Thon has always been by far our biggest fundraiser so the change made us nervous, but the kids got super excited for the Build-a-Thon. It ended up as a huge success!”