Before the students of Oak Hill Elementary took the field for their spring fundraiser, Race for Education, parent volunteers arriving for duty heard a common refrain when asking for their assignments – “check with Lindsay.”
Ready for action on an 80-degree Friday morning was their tireless leader, Lindsay Rooney, for whom the mission of Race for Education is about much more than money.
“Students regardless of age have endured so much change and adjustment over the past years. I feel like it was such a great way to let these kids understand that exercise is great for many reasons,” said Rooney, who is at the helm of the event for the second time.
Race for Education is a schoolwide event in which students raise money for technology, recess equipment, assemblies and other items for school enrichment. Race day is the culmination of their efforts as they take the field with their friends, teachers, and parents to walk or run as many laps as their hearts and legs please.
It’s also the result of Rooney’s efforts – which began months ago with establishing a fundraising goal, setting the date, organizing and ordering all of the event-related items such as tents, T-shirts and prizes, and perhaps most importantly, assembling a team of volunteers to assist with the big day.
“There’s just so many people willing to donate their time, and I feel like Oak Hill has this wonderful supply of helpers in our community that it’s a total team effort. I couldn’t do it without them,” Rooney said of her co-chair Jean Nagle and the 100-plus volunteers who helped with the event.
A mental health clinician who also served as the school’s PTO president for four years, Rooney is especially fond of this event because “exercise is super important to physical health but it’s also really instrumental in mental health,” she said.
While the fundraising is optional for the students, between their efforts and sponsorships from the community, the school raised roughly $40,000 – on par with its pre-COVID events and a number that knocked the initial goal out of the water.
This is Rooney’s last Race for Education, as her fifth-grade son will move on to middle school next year. As she reflects on this event and her years volunteering for Oak Hill, it’s not the hours put in that stand out, but the joy.
“[The students] come out with their T-shirts on, they’re swimming in these shirts and they are just smiling from ear to ear,” Rooney said. “That joy on their faces brings me joy. My son is happy to see me there; it’s almost like he is proud to know that mom’s there and so that is what it’s all about for me. Knowing that I’ve been present and part of something that brings joy and positivity. That’s all I need.”
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