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Red Shoe Crew

The Red Shoe Crew Raises Money and Empathy at Alamosa Park Elementary

School fundraisers are nothing new. But every now and then, one breaks the mold. Then you have Alamosa Park Elementary, which broke records.


The 4th and 5th grade combo class raised a whopping $2,593.49 for Ronald McDonald House Charities of San Diego, which is more than any San Diego County school has ever raised for the charity. How did they do it? It all started with empathy for a classmate.


Fourth/Fifth grade teacher Leslie Manwaring came back from winter break and found out one of her students, Luke, was gone. He was staying at the Ronald McDonald House while his brother was in the hospital. The Ronald McDonald House is a home away from home for families with children being treated at local hospitals. They provide meals, a place to sleep, and even education for siblings. Luke would be back, of course, but Mrs. Manwaring didn’t know when. So the class decided to make cards to send to him.


“They were simple ‘hope to see you soon’ messages, because we had no idea how long he’d be gone,” said Mrs. Manwaring. She wondered how her class would have empathy for Luke when he returned, and decided to create an empathy project.


“First we had to learn what empathy was, which was a cool lesson,” she says. “They developed a class mission statement, ‘make a difference’, that carried them through the entire project.”


Then they learned all about the Ronald McDonald House. Luke became their expert. He answered questions and even showed them pictures, developing strong friendships with his classmates in the process.


The class learned about the Red Shoe Crew project, which teaches students about leadership and being active members in their community. This gave them an idea: host a mini Red Shoe Crew fundraising campaign, which they would be responsible for putting into action.


Mrs. Manwaring reached out to Brittani Montenegro, Corporate and Community Philanthropy Coordinator with Ronald McDonald House, who had delivered the cards to Luke and helped the class get the iconic red shoes for their drive. Montenegro also agreed to visit the class and answer student questions. The students were prepared.


“They asked very thoughtful questions that I hardly even get asked by adults,” said Montenegro. “It was really incredible to see a school get so invested in our House.”


Each student was in charge of an aspect of the fundraising drive. Together, they designed fliers to be sent home, wrote on the school website, and even produced skits that they presented in classrooms. Teaching partner teacher Lorette Perkins helped the students practice their skits.


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“They also really wanted to have shirts,” says Mrs. Manwaring. “Every photo online showed the Red Shoe Crew in red t-shirts.” Drawing inspiration from their mission statement, they designed a logo and motto for their shirts, “Work Hard, Have Fun, Make a Difference,” which they wore during the fundraising campaign.


Before school started on Tuesday, April 17 the class stood in the front of the school, red shoes in hand, to collect donations from students and parents. They held signs showing what a dollar is worth: one dollar provides a meal, $10 ensures supplies for a student, and $20 supports an overnight stay. They raised $492.74 the first morning alone.

“I don’t think students realized how generous other people can be,” says Mrs. Manwaring. Determined, the class was back at it after school, and again the next morning, raising another $1,001.43. In these three sessions students collected an incredible $1,501.17!


The project’s financial success can be attributed in part to the school’s support. “Our class did the legwork and research and advertising, but they turned this project into a real Alamosa Park community project,” says Mrs. Perkins. “The whole school was supportive, which is why we raised so much money in such a short amount of time.”


A shining example of this is when Mrs. Perkins was standing in the office during the drive, a kindergartener approached her with a dollar. She lost her tooth the night before and got the dollar from the tooth fairy. She wanted the Ronald McDonald House to have it.


But the students didn’t stop there. The class also collected change at McDonald’s in Oceanside on Wednesday, April 18 during a dine-out night supporting the school. Sporting their custom shirts and carrying the iconic red shoes, students collected change from people entering the restaurant and in the drive-through.


Some Alamosa Park students donated at school and also came to McDonald’s to donate again. Even strangers were generous when the students talked about their cause, with some donating up to $20. In just three hours they collected $562.32. Including $490 raised from the website, the final tally was $2,593.49.


“We’ve worked with many schools over the years on Red Shoe Crew campaigns and various food and toy drives,” says Montenegro. “But these students really went above and beyond to make it extra special and personal.”


In a fitting end to this impressive campaign, the class visited Ronald McDonald House for a tour to see where their hard earned donations go. Every penny they raised helps the families of San Diego have a comfortable stay while caring for their sick or injured children. The students benefited, too. They developed their creativity and critical thinking skills, and enhanced their research, communication, and organizational abilities. But the impact was also felt on a more personal level. One student had stayed there before, and another wants to work there someday.


Parents also felt the impact. Liz DaBaets says, “I like to see the kids practice public speaking and planning their own projects.” She volunteered for the drive and was very impressed with how much money they raised in just two days. “They did an exceptional job promoting it to the school.” She also volunteered on the field trip to Ronald McDonald House, which was covered by the local news. “It was great to see them get that recognition because they worked so hard.”


Principal Anderson believes the most important lesson was the empathy they have gained not only for their classmate, but for others in that situation. She hopes this project will be a model for other empathy projects in the future.


“We want our students to be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, see how it feels, and ask, ‘what can I do to make your walk easier?’” she says. Whether that’s fundraising or simply being a friend, students now know they can make a difference because they’ve already done it


Another important lesson the students learned is that doing something for others can be very fulfilling. Many fundraising drives have an incentive, but this didn’t.


“The only direct payoff of this experience was the satisfaction of helping others,” says Mrs. Perkins. “They were really proud to do all this work and none of it was for personal gain.”


Even the President and CEO of Ronald McDonald House, Charles Day, had gratitude towards this students. “What a truly remarkable effort to improve and change lives by these young philanthropists,” he said. “Thank you for letting our Ronald McDonald House play such an important role in your work.”


Mrs. Manwaring says she was “just facilitating” and that the students led the whole project. While the class certainly did lead the way, her efforts did not go unnoticed. Liz DaBaets says, “Not everyone would go the extra mile, but Mrs. Manwaring makes it special. This was her vision and she made it happen.”


Principal Cindy Anderson agrees. “Mrs. Manwaring has been the pillar of the project, and her students are so engaged and excited. I’m very proud of the students, and also of the teachers.”


Luke is now back in class, enjoying a stronger bond with his classmates and his Alamosa Park Elementary community.