By Bridget Doherty
Just four months into the school year, the Strath Haven Middle School 8th grade has raised more than $4,000 for Swarthmore-based CADES through various fundraisers such as Cookiegram sales, a night at Panera, and a “Coins for CADES” collection. Ahead are a Martin Luther King Jr. day of service at CADES and a student vs. teacher basketball game. But right now, all the buzz is about a fundraising event that is open to the entire community: the first-ever SHMS 8th Grade Indoor Putt-Putt Palooza at CADES on January 31.
The mini-golf course, which is being built by SHMS students, families and friends, will take people through the CADES facility on Rutgers Avenue. “You’ll get to see some of our equipment, rooms, and therapy areas. It will help people better understand what goes on in this building,” says Bill Benson, who has been the executive director of CADES for 39 years. “And you’ll be able to go golfing in the middle of winter!”
Connection to the Community
Every year, the SHMS 8th grade class selects an organization to learn about and support throughout the year. Over the last eight years, the 8th grade has raised over $60,000 for these charities. “The purpose is to have the students explore the world around them, and also to “instill in them the idea that community service is an important lifelong activity,” says Dan Shaffer, SHMS 8th grade social studies teacher.
This year’s 8th grade class selected CADES, the Swarthmore-based nonprofit organization that has been serving children and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities for more than 60 years. Having the organization practically in their backyard has provided extra motivation to students, says SHMS 8th grader Gabi Torregrossa. “Being able to meet the people we are helping and see the facility that we are improving does inspire us to work that much harder to raise as much money as we can for them.”
Raising Funds and Awareness through Mini-Golf
SHMS Principal George King noted that only with extraordinary parent support could the 8th grade undertake a project as ambitious as Putt-Putt Palooza. Because more than 18 SHMS family and friend teams volunteered to build the mini-golf holes, two separate courses will wind throughout the CADES building. In addition to the one-of-a-kind 8th grade created courses, the event will also feature contests, prizes, raffles, food, and music. Local businesses have been generous with sponsorships, prizes, and in-kind donations. “We’ve had an overwhelming response from the community to this event with more than two dozen sponsors on board,” says Anne Merz, parent Putt-Putt Palooza chair and mother of SHMS 8th grader David Merz.
For students and parents in the community who appreciate CADES’s generosity with their facilities, helping to organize the Putt-Putt Palooza is a way to give back for the hours of activity CADES has provided. “Our children have used the playgrounds at CADES, played at the fields, learned to ride bikes in the parking lots and practiced in the gym,” says Kelli Young, mother of SHMS 8th grader Emmet Young and chair of the Putt-Putt Palooza hole creation committee. “And at CADES, our family has seen kids and adults who have daily challenges we can only try to understand. It’s great for my boys to support a community that has been a part of their lives for so long.”
SHMS 8th Grade Indoor Putt-Putt Palooza for CADES
When: Sunday, January 31, 11 am – 5 pm
Where: CADES, 401 Rutgers Ave., Swarthmore
How much?: $20 per team (up to four) for nine holes. Students 5th grade and under must be accompanied by an adult.
To play: Sign up for a tee time at shmshomeandschool.org; walk-ins also accepted.
To help: Sponsor the event or donate direct to the SHMS 8th Grade CADES service project at shmshomeandschool.org.