Grizzell Middle School eighth-graders raised nearly $10,000 more than their original goal in a project for Honor Flight.
Grizzell Middle School last week held an assembly to honor veterans and hand over more than $24,000 to the central Ohio Honor Flight organization that takes U.S. veterans to Washington, D.C., veteran's monuments free of charge.
The project began after Veterans Day with a goal of $15,000.
"I asked each grade to do something to help others," Grizzell Principal Dustin Miller said. "I thought it would be something more internal."
The effort of the eighth-graders, however, went beyond the school grounds as students worked to raise money through chores, bake sales, school activities and even a letter writing campaign soliciting donations from central Ohio businesses.
"I think it's phenomenal," Miller said of the money raised. "No better word could explain it."
Students decided upon the subject of their fundraiser after meeting an Honor Flight group while on a trip to Washington.
"It inspired us to do Honor Flight as a thank you to veterans," Jackson Khandelwal said during the assembly.
"We owe our veterans so much," Michelle Silva said. "Veterans have given so much for freedom."
Brooklyn DiPaolo said after they met veterans on the trip, they returned to school and learned many veterans were never properly thanked for their service.
"We'd like to acknowledge your countless sacrifices and say, 'Welcome home,' " DiPaolo said.
While students spent time honoring those who served their country, others took an opportunity to recognize students for their hard work on the project.
"Wow," U.S. Congressman Pat Tiberi (R- Genoa Township), told students at the assembly. "I'm inspired."
Via video, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Cleveland) thanked students for their hard work and urged them to stay involved in community service as they get older.
Superintendent Todd Hoadley said the feat by Grizzell students is one of the most impressive things he's seen in his year with the district.
"We have an obligation and duty to thank those who have given so much so we can live in a free country," he said.
Shawn Kaeser, the eighth-grade teacher who led the effort, thanked the community for its help. Early in the fundraising, students didn't think they'd raise this much money, he said.
"Little upon little we made it to our goal and then some," Kaeser said. In fact, Kaeser said checks are still coming in so the $24,000 donated to Honor Flight is expected to grow.