The Leadership, Education and Development Seminar class (LEADS) of the Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce is organizing a day of fun, family and food in an effort to assist those affected by the recent increase in pay-to-participate fees in the Pickerington school district.

The Leadership, Education and Development Seminar class (LEADS) of the Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce is organizing a day of fun, family and food in an effort to assist those affected by the recent increase in pay-to-participate fees in the Pickerington school district.

"Play A Palooza" will be held, rain or shine, from noon to 5 p.m. May 22 at Pickerington High School North.

Lori Dunlap, a LEADS participant, said the goal is to raise between $100,000-$300,000, with the majority coming from corporate sponsorships.

Those sponsorships will be tiered starting at $75 and reach upwards of $20,000. The group also is seeking donations of prizes, food and other items. A Facebook page will be up and running soon, Dunlap said.

The fundraiser is the latest project to be tackled by LEADS. The goal is to raise enough money to eliminate or significantly reduce the fees students are charged to participate in extracurricular activities.

"We needed the boosters' support to do this and we got that last week, so we're ready to move forward," said Jen Dear, a LEADS student and membership director for the chamber of commerce. "Everything right now seems to be geared toward the negatives coming out of the school district and our community. This is a positive reaction to what's happened."

The Pickerington Board of Education announced March 14 that a flat fee of $500 per sport, per student has been set for participation in high school sports during the 2011-2012 school year. That's more than double the current fee of $210. Junior high students will pay $325, up from $135.

High school students involved in strings music activities will be charged $50 while the fee will be $275 for participation in marching band, theater and chorale. Some of those students also will be charged an as-yet-undetermined uniform fee.

"We want to make it clear that we're not ignoring academics," said Jessica Seipel, a LEADS participants and branch manager for Fairfield National Bank.

An account has been established at the bank that allows community members to donate to the fundraising project.

"Colleges look for students who are involved in music, athletics and other activities," Seipel said. "Having a well-rounded student base going out into the world is important."

The LEADS members are hoping to kick off the May 22 event with a 5K run, although those details are still being worked out. There will be games such as dodgeball and water-balloon toss, concessions and live music provided by the marching bands and choirs.

Admission fees will be priced for both individuals and families, although organizers have not yet set those amounts.

Those attending can vie for prizes based on a point system that will accumulate throughout the day on a punch card, of sorts. They also can "Rent a Ringer" by making a monetary donation to have a stand-in play a game in their place to earn more points, which will be awarded not only for winning but also for participation.

"Suppose someone isn't very good at kickball. They can go rent the quarterback of the football team," Dear said with a laugh. "We'll have student-athletes and band members and so forth there on site, because they want to help. They have the most invested in all this.

"It's all in good fun, too," she said. "We'll have games for all ages and all skill levels. We want families to come out, and we want their 3-year-old having as much fun as their 17-year-old."

Given the current financial state of other local school districts, especially in the wake of recent state funding cuts, Dunlap added that similar fundraising events could provide help in those communities as well.

"We want this to be a template," she said.

Helen Mayle, a facilitator for LEADS and president of the chamber of commerce, pointed out that Pickerington has long been known for its willingness to fund projects deemed necessary by its community members. One example cited by the LEADS group is the fieldhouse at PHS Central, which was built without any taxpayer money. Another project was the restructuring of the Pickerington Food Pantry two years ago.

"Our goal then was to raise $10,000, and we finished with $25,000. That's how supportive this community can be," Mayle said. "I don't have any children in the schools any more, but I want today's kids to have the same opportunities.

"And in the bigger picture, what's going on in the schools affects other areas of life, like home values," she said. "Everybody has a stake in this."

For more information about "Play A Palooza," contact Dunlap at lori-dunlap@hotmail.com.