By by Heather Clark, Courier staffMay 31, 2013
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- For a child in elementary school, few days compare to field day -- that one perfect afternoon when fun and games are the only items on the curriculum, and the sunshine puts teachers and students in mind of the light at the end of the tunnel that is the academic year.
As faculty and Parent Teacher Organization members of Barsanti Elementary School began preparations for their own field day, the nation was shocked to learn about a series of tornadoes that devastated parts of Oklahoma City May 19 -- including two elementary schools.
Following the tragic news, the PTO sprang into action. Member Monica Annel made the initial suggestion that all proceeds collected from selling field day concessions be donated via Red Cross to benefit the victims of the terrible storms.
"We decided to put it up the board and discuss it with the principal," said Rebecca Santos, vice president of the Barsanti PTO. "They were on board with it, and everybody's been enthusiastic about it."
With the event posted on Facebook, Santos said that people in Oklahoma were eventually linked to the field day charity drive.
"They were saying it was a great idea," she said. "They've actually been following us."
On Tuesday (grades K-2) and Wednesday (grades 3-5) mornings, Barsanti students were set loose on the open field behind the school. They played beach ball volleyball, ran relay races with eggs on spoons and tested their strength with tug-of-war. When the sun became problematic, they made bee-lines toward a white tent, where PTO volunteers waited with bottled water, sports drinks and snow cones. Money in hand, they lined up -- the realization that their contributions would make a difference in the lives of others making their purchases that much sweeter.
"The kids are all on-board," said Santos. "My son was upset about their elementary schools and just everything that happened. He was asking if we could donate money."
Other children at Barsanti were just as eager to be part of the cause. When Tuesday's proceeds neared $440, Santos and other PTO members issued a challenge to grades 3-5 to see if they could double that number. And on each day, the effort was urged along with the help of an irresistibly sweet incentive.
"To increase our sales, we decided that for every $50 we raised, someone would get a pie in the face," said Santos.
From outgoing PTO president Liz Payne to Barsanti's assistant principal, no adult was safe from the looming threat of clown-style justice. Even Jennifer Halley, Barsanti's principal, was not granted immunity.
"It's kind of an incentive," said Halley, waiting for a silver pie tin to be loaded with whipped cream before she approached the chopping block. "We're taking the pies for the cause. It's been wonderful, and I'm getting a facial as I go."
It is a small sacrifice when measured against the big goals set by the PTO -- goals that Halley and faculty were more than happy to help achieve.
"Our PTO is so wonderful to us," she said. "They contribute so much to our school, and I think we can contribute a little to Oklahoma. We feel sorry for the people in Oklahoma, and we want to support them in any way we can."
Following that sentiment, Halley sat in the designated seat and awaited her fate, which arrived in the form of 5th grader Peyton Himes, age 11. After the deed was done, he reflected on how his final days of elementary school would be cemented by the act of putting a pie in his principal's face.
"It felt pretty satisfying," said Himes with a blue-tinged smile -- a side effect from indulging in snow cones.
Also satisfying was the knowledge that he and his fellow students were helping those recently affected by hardship.
"I think it's really good, because then they can have help getting new houses and stuff like that," he said.
Around the field, smiles tinted blue, red and purple emphasized the notion that kids like Himes are not a rarity at Barsanti.
"The kids have been great," said Santos, "and it's all heartfelt."
Santos said she is proud of the giving nature of her school and proud of the efforts put forth by her fellow PTO members to make a difference and set solid foundations for the young school.
"To be able to leave money for next year's PTO and still be able to donate these proceeds -- that is big," she said. "Fort Campbell receives a lot, so to be able to put it out there to people in need, it goes a long way."