MHS Community Feeling Fundraising Fatigue

Anna Kinasewitz | Staff Writer

Whether it’s shaking mom down for cash, digging in the glove box for loose change, or knocking on neighbors’ doors to pledge money, fundraising at Mason is an ever-persistent event. 

Years ago, many members of the high school staff began to realize that students and high school families may feel as though they were constantly being asked to contribute money to support causes. National Honors Society advisor Barb Shuba said that she understands how it can seem like there is a new group raising money for a new cause, constantly. 

“Most schools have one booster organization,” Shuba said. “At Mason, nearly every sport has its own booster organization specific to that team. Our local business partners are spread thin and can only give so much when baseball, then football, then band all come asking for donations and gift cards and sponsorships. The same goes for when students ask their parents for contributions.”

Student Activities Director Lorri Fox-Allen sees the ins and outs of every organization and its fundraisers. She has set forth a plan in hopes to form a Master Fundraising calendar to avoid the constant overload and bombardment of fundraising, and said that although she believes that every organization has a good reason to raise money, it is not feasible for everyone to be raising money all at once.

“I get hit up by every group that wants to come in here and fundraise,” Fox-Allen said. “The issue is that everybody’s cause is great. I feel better about items rather than straight cash being back to back. When somebody comes to me, I want something in my hand that has it all laid out; what fundraisers and drives and groups have priorities at certain times.”

Jeff Schlaeger is the advisor for the Students Involving and Befriending Students (SIBS) organization at the high school, which runs the annual food drive, one of the largest fundraisers at MHS. With a goal of raising $20,000 this year, Schlaeger said that he believes that although Mason has a huge amount of fundraisers at the high school, the students do a good job of rising to the challenge.

“As far as fundraisers go, I know we do a lot at MHS,” Schlaeger said. “We do have incentives that help, but this year has proven that we do not need prizes and raffles to do the right thing and be there for one another. I am proud of what our whole school is doing.”

Fox-Allen said that late November and December, with the holiday season and end of the semester going on, is one of the most difficult times to give back. Despite that, Kids Count manages to raise money to give holiday gifts to local families who wouldn’t normally have the means to do so.

“We continue to support Kids Count so well every year,” Fox-Allen said. “It’s such a crazy time for everyone but how can we suddenly stop taking care of 115 families and not let that affect them? Having so many students in our school allows our impact to extend to more people who need assistance than we realize.”

Kids Count isn’t the only organization that raises huge amounts of money at Mason. MHS raises so much for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) — over $25,000 — the school gets to choose where the dollars go through the organization. Most of the victims that were Mason students have had ALS (Acute Myeloid Leukemia), so the money raised at the school is specifically funding scientists that are researching for cures for that disease. Shuba has seen firsthand how the dollars raised by Mason are making their mark. 

“We have had probably close to 15 students that have had blood cancer and right now, there are three students in the high school that are battling this disease,” Shuba said. “So yes, it is the fundraising, but also it’s the awareness that this kid sitting next to you, that maybe you don’t know, is going through this. Something that is treatable now would have been a death sentence 20 years ago — that’s what students really need to let sink in when thinking about donating.”

While NHS isn’t the only group at the high school known for its fundraising efforts, they certainly have some of the most successful campaigns. But it’s not just dollar signs, Shuba says: MHS gives back in a variety of ways that are just as important as funds. 

“We’ve branched out into collecting shoes via Souls for Soles, making blankets for Children’s Hospital, and the tutoring for Finals Countdown,” Shuba said. “Service is the component of giving of your time. Giving back is sometimes donation of your resources and raising funds, but it also it’s giving of your time.” 

Organizations not affiliated with any school clubs can also raise money from MHS students. The Collins family, for instance, raises money for their organization The Live Like Maya Foundation. Annabella Collins, a class of 2019 graduate and and sister to the late Maya Collins, said that she once viewed fundraising as an obligation and something that didn’t really cause any change. Having cancer in the family has changed her perspective on the matter. 

“After experiencing the need to fundraise first-hand, I see it as something that brings a community together,” Collins said. “And it’s not just a job, but it’s being there for one another and building that support system. The impact is as special as the people doing the work make it, and I think it’s a really powerful thing seeing what the Mason community has been able to accomplish not only financially, but within the people themselves.”

The Live Like Maya Foundation benefits St. Jude Hospital, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and LLS. Collins believes that the fact that Mason was the community surrounding her family has a great deal to do with the foundation’s success. The foundation started small with events at the school, saw the success, and was able to expand into the local community and now nationally. 

“I believe that Mason being large and being the community that it is has helped us a lot,” Collins said. “Maya had a big following when she was sick. So after she passed away, coming back to Mason, and having that big following and having everyone stay in the loop and understand the foundation’s purpose was really helpful. People were more willing to donate and people were more inspired to join in on that community aspect and to raise more money.”

Schlaeger also said that he feels the importance of a personal connection to fundraising. He said that his history has contributed to his belief in the power of the food bank campaign.

“I would never be one to rank which [fundraiser] is more important — they all are,” Schlaeger said. “[But] the food drive is personal to me because I was a teenager who needed the kind of help and encouragement that community support gave — through food banks and such. I also, in my long career, have seen the impact that financial adversity can have in a student’s ability to come to and be fully engaged in school.”

Shuba also sees the importance of fundraising in the community, which is why she has dedicated much time to bringing life-changing opportunities to students. She said that she sees the character development when students take a step back and invest in others. 

“Giving builds life skills,” Shuba said. “What that footprint you leave on our world? Do you tread very lightly, or do you go back and really make a difference along the way?”