For years, students at Los Feliz Charter School have been asking their gym teacher, Mr. Wegner, to participate in their annual jog-a-thon, but he always declines. It’s for the kids, he tells them, and encourages them to run as many laps as they can to raise money for the school. This year, though, when schools across the nation shut down due to COVID-19, Mr. Wegner knew he had to do something different to help out. So, equipped with a rowboat, a motorcycle, a bike, and other fun props to entertain the masses, Mr. Wegner set out to run in his own jog-a-thon alone on the school field while students watched online and participated at home in their own creative ways. His enthusiasm paid off. Los Feliz raised over $55,000, meeting their annual goal and exceeding PTA expectations.
“A small crew went to the school with masks to set up and film Mr. Wegner at the field,” said PTA volunteer Anita Sheridan. “The kids are always bugging him to do the jog-a-thon, so he did it on the empty track. He rode around on a bike, pretended to row in a boat, and had a motorcycle. The kids thought it was hilarious. Everyone needed a little cheering up and it really raised community spirit.”
2020 was not only the first year Los Feliz Elementary School hosted a virtual jog-a-thon, but it was also its first year using PledgeStar. Los Feliz PTA had used an expensive third party platform for its online fundraising in the past. Sheridan noticed that it was extremely complicated and expensive, so she wanted to look for a more user friendly and cost effective way to collect money.
“We raised almost the same amount of money we thought we would raise if we had the jog-a-thon at school,” Sheridan said. “It was a shockingly good amount for not even having an event at school. Thanks to PledgeStar, we saved money AND headaches.”
Sheridan knew that asking family and friends for money during an unprecedented quarantine might be both uncomfortable and unsuccessful. She was also worried that the school closure would make students less likely to participate in the fundraising. But, she said, PledgeStar’s automatically generated emails eliminated awkward phone calls asking for money, as well as any reminder emails for students to do so.
PTA volunteers and school staff didn’t stop at the funny gym teacher video when it came to lifting student spirit. An office administrator volunteered to host a live stream from the school on the day of the event while another parent manned the sound board and directed the filming for families to watch at home. The PTA president served as emcee, narrating the event on the school’s social media page and website.
“The virtual jog-a-thon turned out better than we thought,” said Sheridan. “The school was doing Zoom classrooms already, so we had the systems set up and everything was in place with PledgeStar.”