There’s no such thing as a bad day spent in service of somebody else, some other cause or something that you believe in,” said Kyle Clark, 9News anchor and the keynote speaker at an assembly marking McAuliffe International School’s annual day of service. Representatives from local nonprofit groups were on hand at the ceremony to accept cash donations from students at the school before the kids headed out to serve their community.
McAuliffe students handed out $6,600 in grants of around $400 apiece to a broad array of organizations. The money had been collected through the SparkChange club at McAuliffe, organized through the Young Americans Bank. Student leaders in SparkChange coordinated coin drives during the year and then met with around 80 nonprofit groups to select where to direct the funds and the student-power to help them, according to Charlie Denlinger, a seventh-grader who formerly served in the club.
While animal welfare was a particularly popular category—the audience of 900 students audibly squealed at the mere mention of puppy rescue—other causes supported by the school included cancer, refugee support, suicide prevention, social injustice, bee extinction crisis support, rape awareness, world and community health, and child welfare.
After the ceremony, McAuliffe students fanned out across the community to volunteer their time. There were 24 project sites—nearly half dedicated to animal welfare—across the city.
“You have figured out that life doesn’t just happen to you. There are so many people that just let life happen to them,” Clark told the students. “You guys are about to go out there today and happen to life … You’re going to make things better as opposed to just accepting things as the way they are.”
At the Denver Animal Shelter, the students got to meet an older dog named “Gramma” and learn about how the municipal shelter takes care of animals and works collaboratively with other agencies to provide for animal welfare in Denver.
Then the sixth-graders went to work, stuffing Kongs with dog food and peanut butter and making toys and treats for shelter dogs. “It’s important to know what’s going outside of Park Hill and fun to take action knowing you’re making change and representing McAuliffe,” said participant Hadley Hageseth.
Meanwhile, at the S.A.M.E. (So All May Eat) Café students helped with cleaning the kitchen, pantry, and dining areas and refilling supplies. They also learned about the work of the S.A.M.E. Café, which serves fresh, mostly local and organic food at prices set by the customers. Those who have little pay what they can; those with nothing can spend an hour volunteering in exchange for a meal.
The group of seventh-graders who went to the Anchor Center for Blind Children learned about the center’s program for low vision and blind children and their unique facility. The students had the opportunity to navigate the space with their eyes closed. “You really get to understand what their lives are like,” said Denlinger. “There are grooves in the hallways and little bumps on everything to help them.” The group of McAuliffe kids helped with cleaning and also assembled sensory boxes for babies to use. They learned that such boxes have really helped children who can’t see learn how to explore the world around them in a safe space, leading to improvements in their development, said Denlinger.
Kyle Clark’s promise that the students would have a great day seems to have panned out, for students and charities alike.