Arron Brown knows how to motivate a 4th grader: food. “Kids love working for food,” he says.
Arron is a fourth-grade teacher at Pembroke Intermediate School in Pembroke, New York. And there must be something in the water there, because people really go the extra mile to support Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
It started in 2011 with Shooting for a Cure, an annual Pembroke High School Lady Dragons basketball game dedicated to raising funds for Roswell Park. Arron was moved by their intense work and the community’s involvement that he was inspired to do something on his own. So when Shooting started its own Ride For Roswell team four years ago, he joined.
He also brought it into his classroom. Arron sets up regular fundraising challenges for his fourth-graders. When they reach $100, they get a popcorn and kickball party, or at $250, pizza and wings. Other days, everyone who brings in a donation gets an ice cream sandwich or gets to sit in his chair for a day. Anything to thank the kids for going out of their way to help people in need.
He knows money is tight for many families in his school district, so when a kid can contribute $4, it’s a big deal. He helps them see how important that is and how it builds community. So they not only get the fun of the rewards — they see their impact.
“They see The Ride For Roswell commercials and say, ‘I helped with that, I did that.’ Being an integral part of their community, being a positive role model in their community, on some of the kids, it has a really big impact.”
Teaching The Importance of Giving Back
How does he explain Roswell Park to 9- and 10-year-olds? Unfortunately, most of them already know about it because family or friends have had cancer. But because of Shooting for a Cure, they also see it as the place where you get better. “They know we’re helping people who are fighting the fight right now,” Arron says.
So how does he explain The Ride? First, they see their teacher “running around like a crazy person for weeks ahead of time.” But then he explains all the things the rest of us love about The Ride.
“I explain The Ride to them as the community coming together, riding their bikes, going out seeing beautiful parts of Western New York, hanging out with friends and really just getting out there and spending time as a community for this great cause.”
What are his fundraising tips? Arron goes back to that most basic of motivators: food. He pays for it out of his own pocket, but it’s worth it because the kids feel invested in their community. Plus, they love helping others. But he also says to make it fun and out of the ordinary. “Don’t be afraid to get dirty or embarrass yourself a little bit.”
Cross your fingers for those kids, because they’re really close to their next milestone. “Right now, they are $2 away from an ice cream sundae. The deal is if they reach $250, they get to design their own ice cream sundae. And then they are $52 away from a pizza and a wing contest. So we go outside, we have a picnic with pizza and wings out back. And they get to sit there in the sun while their friends are running around the playground.
“Life’s okay when you’re in fourth grade eating pizza and wings.”