Rancho Cañada Elementary School in Southern California has a long standing tradition of holding a super fun, super successful annual jog-a-thon. When COVID-19 hit in 2020, though, the school's PTA members knew that they needed to make some drastic changes in order to boost student morale and bring in much-needed funding for the next year. In 2020, Rancho Cañada's jog-a-thon focused on putting the "fun" in "fundraising" and unifying community members with school spirit and an exciting month-long event.
"Normally we'd have the kids run around the track at school and have a giant balloon arch with misters and fans," said parent volunteer Thorey Bauer. "This year we weren't on campus, but we wanted to incentivize kids to get outside for the entire month of October."
Rancho Cañada has used PledgeStar for its jog-a-thon for over three years after moving from a paper-based fundraising system. When the entire event needed social-distancing modifications, Bauer and other parent volunteers worked together to create Rancho Cañada's first ever "move-a-thon" in the fall of 2020. Students were encouraged to run, jump, bike, skip, or just play for as many days as possible during the month-long time period the event was held. They logged their hours on PledgeStar using the honor system and competed with each other to move as many days as possible.
"When we realized that we weren't going to have the big jog-a-thon like we had for twenty years," said Bauer. "We took a step back and asked ourselves ‘what's the goal?' We felt that the tradition upheld a sense of unity and we wanted everyone to feel a part of it."
Every student was given a move-a-thon T-shirt to wear at least once during their "moving days." The students also competed for prizes such as earbuds, online family nights, whiteboards for homeschool activities, and markers.
Over 400 students participated in the event, and Bauer remarked that setting it up with PledgeStar was easier than she expected: "It was pretty simple," she said. "We made a few adjustments to the verbiage on the website, but that was very fast. The fundraising aspect was hardly different at all and we just sent a few emails to remind everyone to sign on."
Historically, Rancho Cañada's annual jog-a-thon paid for high cost items and programs, such as a free end-of-the-year school carnival and a high-tech STEAM lab on campus. This year, though, these programs were put on hold, so the funds raised by the move-a-thon covered the necessities for schooling during a pandemic: online family nights, masks for students, and T-shirts.
"We really wanted the kids to get away from screens every day and have fun being a part of something," said Bauer. "I think we definitely accomplished that goal."