Many may argue that heroes need capes or guns or badges, but everyday heroes come in all types.
This week in Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain, there’s actually a large group of everyday heroes coming together to help out a few neighbors. From the teacher willing to have his ears pierced at a school assembly, to another willing to eat cow tongue, to students that are contributing a little bit of their lunch money every day, Westlake High School in Saratoga Springs is raising money quarter by quarter, dollar by dollar, to help community families in need.
The Westlake “Christmas Jars” fundraiser is based on 2005 best-selling book, “Christmas Jars,” by Jason F. Wright. The idea behind the book is to gather money, a bit at a time, and then anonymously drop off that jar to someone in need.
Candace Wilson is a teacher and adviser to Westlake’s Family, Career, Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) student group. Wilson, and a collaboration of other teachers, decided to start their own version of the jar project a few years ago as the school started to find its identity as a newly built school.
“When you establish a new school, you want to establish something for the school to work together on,” Wilson said.
The project was small to begin with, until the Westlake FCCLA student group jumped on the fundraiser last year, and then set themselves an even bigger goal this year to raise $10,000 so they can help more than 30 local families with Christmas. In the last two years of doing this project as a group, they’ve topped out at $6,000. But this year they’ve involved the whole school, community members and local businesses.
At the school’s Christmas Jars assembly on Dec. 4, , the students raised almost $4,000 in just two hours. How? By marking off fundraising goals through competitions with or challenges to the school’s faculty and staff.
“We have really good students running with it and taking ownership of it,” Wilson said. “It’s really grown as we’ve made this a school-wide thing.”
Through a partnership with the FCCLA students and the school’s student council, the school has also been holding fundraising events for the past two weeks and will finish off their fundraising efforts this weekend with a dance. Tuesday night, the school held its “Stuff the Jars” Night, raising even more money through a variety of booths, including pictures with Santa, a creative kissing booth, the school’s famous cinnamon rolls, a dance off, local dancers and a mini concert by singer and songwriter Madilyn Paige.
“This helps us get into the Christmas spirit. It unifies and brings all the students together,” said FCCLA President Crystal Balter, looking around the commons area at the high school Tuesday night.
As a senior, Balter has been involved in the project as it’s grown.
“It makes us have hope that the world isn’t as bad as it seems,” she said.
As the staff excitedly counted the money Wednesday, they had about $8,500 in total funds, and organizers felt they were going to reach their goal by the weekend.
The students never see the people they help; they only know the families are within their community, even some with students at Westlake. Once they have the final tally for the fundraiser, staff will go over the names of the families in need that have been submitted by students and the community. The FCCLA students will then purchase presents and bundle them together. Then, in doorbell ditch style, they will leave the gifts at the families’ homes, and run.
“It gives me a moment to think of others and serve them, and it makes me realize our community is so good,” said Keylee Mckinney, the student body service president.
Westlake isn't alone in showing school spirit for the holidays. Most of the high schools in Utah County do some sort of service project for the holiday season. Timpanogos High School in Orem and Timpview High in Provo are doing their own Sub 4 Santa drives to also help area families. Others are looking abroad, like Lone Peak High in Highland. The school is in the midst of its annual Gold Rush to raise money to build schools in Mexico.