NAPERVILLE— The music blasted the Rednex version of “Cotton Eye Joe” as the students trotted around the Owen Elementary School’s gymnasium to the heavy beat of the music.
After a few laps around the gym the music switched to Katy Perry’s “Roar,” and the kids strutting and moving their arms to the sounds of “Walk Like An Egyptian” by the Bangles. Between laps, parents and teachers gave the kids high-fives to encourage the students to keep moving along the track.
The high-energy, music-pumping Fun Run held last month was organized by Atlanta-based Boosterthon, a company that specializes in helping elementary schools raise money. This year Boosterthon estimates it will serve more than 700,000 students in 1,000 schools.
Owen Elementary is one of eight schools in the Chicago area participating. Cowlishaw Elementary in Naperville and Long Beach Elementary School in Montgomery will participate in the upcoming weeks.
Every lap by the 551 Owen Elementary students participating in the Fun Run meant more money for the school. Before the run, students enlisted sponsors who had the choice to pledge a per-lap amount or flat donation toward that student’s Fun Run. Boosterthon materials say most student average around 30-35 laps.
After all was said and done, the Owen Elementary profited more than $18,000 from the Boosterthon program, according to official tallies from the company. The school plans to use the money to fund teacher wish lists and classroom improvements.
In a day when parents cringe at the mere mention of kids selling wrapping paper or candy for a fund-raiser, Boosterthon organizers say their method avoids the hassles of heavy parental involvement often associated with such drives.
Brett Trapp, vice president of marketing and media, said his company invests a great deal of time and resources into each Boosterthon event.
“Our program is full-service,” Trapp said. The company takes charge of organizing the drive, hosting a pre-event pep rally, visiting classrooms to promote character and fitness, keeping track of the pledges and serving as a resource for administration, teachers and parents.
Trapp said the character, fitness and leadership aspects of the Fun Run set his company apart from the traditional merchandise fund-raiser.
Not everyone buys into the program.
The company has come under fire from critics who accused the company of taking nearly have of the pledges collected as the fee.
Trapp said has since revised the fee schedule and switched to a sliding scale, so the more pledges a school collects the greater the percentage the school receives.
He added that because Boosterthon does everything, the company must take into the cost of the labor, materials and travel expenses. “In some cases, we lose money,” said Trapp.
Parents also have said the company uses valuable classroom time for its pitches and character-building lessons. The company maintains it works with teachers to avoid detracting from instructional time.
During the nine days Boosterthon says it is at the school, the pep rally, team huddle days and kickoff account for roughly two hours, 75 percent of which focuses on character and fitness. The remaining 30 minutes divided over the night days is devoted to the fund-raising aspect.