Tuesday, February 08, 2000

Besieged by good kids and worthy causes

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Let me make this clear. I am not suggesting you open your wallet to send some teen-ager you don't even know to Walt Disney World. Nobody is suggesting that, including the 20 girls from Dater Junior High School who want to make the trip.

        They are not asking for a free ride.

        Members of the Westwood junior high school's drill team, ages 12 to 15, want to earn enough money by Feb. 15 to take a three-day vacation with Mickey and Minnie. While they're there, they will compete with 19 other drill teams from around the country.

        I'm pretty sure the contest is a marketing plan to sell vacation trips to high school kids. But they do get a reduced room rate and the chance to perform before a crowd and meet other students from all over the country. Not to mention the sun and Epcot and Sleeping Beauty's castle.

        And the students learn how to work for something they want. A very valuable lesson indeed.

A dollar at a time
        The girls need to raise $12,000, and it will be a squeaker. They still are short about $1,800. “These girls have been working their tails off since September,” their adviser, Judy Neville, says. Raffles, a bowling tournament, selling cosmetics and Tupperware, a spaghetti dinner, bingo. They are earning money the old-fashioned way — a dollar at a time.

        A school secretary, Judy has been the team's sponsor and head cheerleader for four years. Her daughter, Cheri, a senior at Thomas More College, is the Cougarette coach.

        “We are going to do this somehow,” Judy says, “because I just won't let them work this hard and be disappointed. It's not just the trip, it's what the drill team does for these kids the rest of the year. They have to keep their grades up to stay on the team, and I believe an activity like this keeps some girls in school.”

        A good cause. But, of course, we are surrounded by good causes, many of them featuring children with their hands out.

        It's about time for Girl Scout cookies to start appearing at Kroger and Thriftway and in the shopping malls. Cookie money will be used for lots of different things, depending on the troop. Some will pay for tickets to the ballet, the theater, golf, day camp. Maybe some trips.

        In my neighborhood, St. Mary's Grade School students are selling chances on a Beanie Baby for 50 cents each to help fund the school's student-to-student exchange to Australia.

        The youth group at Knox Presbyterian Church in Hyde Park plans a pancake supper March 7 to raise money for a trip to a Presbyterian retreat in North Carolina.

        Always something, right?

No handouts
        No doubt all of us will bump into worthy causes in our neighborhoods and shopping malls and grocery stores. Frankly, there are a lot of opportunities for students to take trips. Your own kid, maybe. Or possibly you'd like to take a vacation, but you spent your travel money on plumbing repairs.

        So I am not saying you should cough up for chances on a Beanie Baby you don't want or Avon products you won't use or Thin Mints that are not on your all-meat-all-the-time diet.

        I'm just saying if you happen to see some of these kids and you happen to need your car washed or some baked goods or some spaghetti or pancakes, you might want to throw some business their way.

        You would not be giving anybody a handout. Although the kids selling the tickets or the cookies might suspect you are doing this just because you like children, I doubt that this would seriously impair their initiative.

        In fact, you might even throw caution to the wind and buy more than you really need of whatever they are selling. I feel confident that this material sign of your support would not be misinterpreted.

        And you might get a very warm feeling without traveling all the way to Florida.

        E-mail Laura Pulfer at lpulfer@enquirer.com or call 768-8393. Author of I Beg to Differ, she appears regularly on WVXU radio, National Public Radio's Morning Edition and Insight's Northern Kentucky Magazine.