BALTO/Swine Week

Bringing A Light To Others
Twenty years ago, Edmond Memorial High School students joined together to raise money for a classmate’s medical costs. In an innovative fundraising effort, they devised ways to generate money, including paying to have their teachers kiss a pig. Swine Week was born in the spring of 1986 and the students raised $3,000.

Over the years, the tradition has grown and continues at each Edmond High School. Organized by the Student Council at each site, the spirit weeks give students a chance to celebrate school pride while donating to a good cause. The three schools combined raised $454,500 this year.

The theme of Swine Week 2006 was Peter Ham; Memorial rose to the challenge, and Swine Week raised $178,500. The majority of the funds were donated to Hearts for Hearing Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides resources to Oklahoma children with hearing problems so they can learn to listen and talk.

Bill Terry, Student Council sponsor at Memorial, said the council heard presentations from about six organizations in order to make their decision on the recipient. Terry said the students usually select organizations that help young children. Costs associated with hearing loss can be quite large, especially for young patients.

“Children grow so fast, they may need a new hearing aid every month,” he said. Hearing aids are about $100, so the expenses add up quickly.

Because of the cost and lack of insurance coverage, many Oklahoma infants diagnosed with hearing loss are not fitted with hearing aids until after their first birthday. Hearts for Hearing is dedicated to reversing this trend because studies indicated that access to sound during the first six months of life is critical for the auditory centers of the brain to develop fully.

In addition to selecting an organization, the Student Council members also plan activities, such as assemblies and concerts, to raise money. Students pay to attend the assemblies and other events. T-shirts printed with the theme are sold and donations are collected at every opportunity. The Student Council also sets a fundraising goal. Memorial’s was $140,000 this year. No announcements are made during the week about how much money has been raised, so everyone continues to collect donations the entire week. Parents were encouraged to attend the concluding assembly at Memorial; that last gathering generated $20,000.

“They never cease to amaze me,” Terry said of the students. He credits their hard work with surpassing the goal. “There was probably nobody in Edmond who was not contacted about donating”

At Edmond North High School, the spirit week is called BALTO, which stands for Bringing A Light To Others. The North students raised $135,000 for the Children’s Center in Bethany, a private hospital that cares for medically fragile children. Patients at the Children’s Center range from birth to 18 years and their disabilities are the result of birth defects, complications at birth, debilitating illnesses, accidents or abuse.

Student Council sponsor Brian Hunter said the BALTO co-chairs, Janie Muhlinghause and Paige Grewell, visited several organizations and made recommendations for the other council members to vote on.

The students were persuaded by the Children Center’s need for new ventilators and the profound medical improvement the equipment would mean for children with respiratory problems.

“Each ventilator costs about $15,000, so we knew if we did well, we could get several,” Hunter said.

Some of the class members have friends or close relatives who are disabled, which influenced the council members in making their decision, Hunter said.

Multiple organizations requested assistance from the students and Hunter said they had a difficult time making a decision.

“I’m glad we have three high schools in Edmond,” he said. “I think the three of us together really make a big difference.” Requests are already coming in from organizations that would like to be considered for next year’s recipient.

Santa Fe High School celebrates Double Wolf Dare Week each spring. Their fundraising benefited the Oklahoma Brain Tumor Foundation to the tune of $143,000. The Oklahoma Brain Tumor Foundation meets the needs of Oklahoma families, caregivers and patients affected by brain or central nervous system tumors. It provides education, advocacy, research and service.

Nationwide, brain tumors are the leading cause of cancer-related death in children under the age of 20. The Central Brain Tumor Registry estimates 2,900 Oklahomans have a primary brain tumor.

All three high schools joined together to contribute $5,000 each to the Dreamcatcher Playground in Choctaw. The handicapped-accessible playground at Choctaw Elementary School is open to everyone. The outdoor equipment is accessible by both wheelchairs and walkers and gives handicapped children the opportunity to experience the joy of playing in a safe environment.

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