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The City Journals

Community turns out to support Eastlake Elementary at 10th fall festival

Oct 04, 2021 03:27PM ● By Julie Slama

About 700 families supported this year’s Eastlake Elementary’s fall festival, which served as the school’s PTA fundraiser. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Keppner.)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

For nine years, Eastlake Elementary has held a fall festival fundraiser, complete with a dunk tank, carnival games, inflatable fun, silent auction, dinner and a bake sale.

In the past, the event has attracted families, raising $15,000 to $20,000 for the school’s PTA to sponsor activities and events.

However, last year the event wasn’t held because of COVID-19. Instead, customized Eastlake masks were made available as the fundraiser for $20 each or 2 for $30, which netted $6,500, said PTA President Alison Neeley.

With the return of the fall festival, during the continuation of the pandemic, Neeley hoped for a good turnout to bring in a typical amount for the school PTA.

Instead, crowds flocked to the school, with more than 750 community members turning out.

“It was busier this year,” Neeley said. “Last year with COVID, we weren’t able to do anything, so I think people were excited to get out and do something.”

To run a grand carnival evening for the community, she relied upon others; about 250 people volunteered.

“We reached out to the clubs at the [nearby] high school. Herriman [High] rugby team’s coach is amazing. He sends the boys on the team over to help every year,” she said, adding that middle school students also return to their alma mater to help and church youth groups and Scouts joined in to run carnival games.

This year, students in Herriman High’s Chinese program held specific cultural-themed activities, such as making paper lanterns, practicing Chinese characters and using chopsticks to pick up small marshmallows and cereal not only for those in Chinese dual immersion program, but for all Eastlake students.

“It’s a fun service opportunity because a lot of clubs in high school need some amount of service hours so I think they enjoy doing fun service,” she said. “My favorite part is just seeing people willing to help to create that experience for the kids, especially the teenagers. It’s really touching that they want to do that for the kids in the community and that they’re willing to help out with it.”

Some people also helped the event by donating gift baskets or contacting local businesses to donate items. This year bidding items ranged from a Donavan Mitchell-signed Utah Jazz jersey, Hale Center theatre tickets, and Megaplex tickets to home décor items, Pampered Chef pizza stones, tutoring sessions, homemade quilts and photography, and professional organizing sessions and more.

Students likely had the most fun with their $10 wristbands that allowed them to do almost all the activities that evening. Some opted to pay $1 per ball to soak nine different teachers in the dunk tank.

“The kids love to see their teachers in the dunk tank and it’s really neat because the teachers, a lot of the times, let let the kids who don’t hit the target (with a ball), just run up and hit it anyway—every single time,” Neeley said. “They’re amazing for doing that.” 

Families also could pre-order or purchase at the event some of the 240 chicken sandwiches or 160 slices of pizza, which proceeds also contributed to the fundraiser.

At press deadline, the PTA was still tallying up the cash and electronic payments from the evening.

Neeley said the funds are earmarked for PTA activities such as Red Ribbon Week, literacy, Battle of the Books, DARE shirts, kindergarten orientation, sixth grade party, spelling bee, teacher appreciation, teachers’ dinners during parent-teacher conferences and school field trips.

However, this year, Eastlake’s fall festival also was a time to bond.

“The kids loved it,” Neeley said. “They were so excited. I had a lot of comments that people were just thrilled and just so grateful to do something fun. I think it went really well and it was extra crowded this year with people making it a priority.”