The Gahanna-Jefferson Education Foundation will continue to promote excellence in the schools, thanks to the generosity of Gahanna Gala attendees.

Sharon Tomko, Gahanna schools community relations and outreach coordinator, said the group's annual fundraiser Feb 24 is estimated to have raised at least $100,000 at the L Brands corporate headquarters, 3 Limited Parkway in Columbus.

Over the years, the foundation has purchased Chromebooks, Smart Boards, tablet computers and laptops; promoted science, technology, engineering and math programs; supported the elementary school-reading initiative; and funded special projects and programs, including the Experience the Arts Program, Goshen Lane Summer Drama Camp and the YMCA after-school program for middle school.

To date, Tomko said, the foundation has funded more than $1.4 million in grants, Fund-A-Need initiatives, donor-designated programs and scholarships.

Jessica Long, a Chapelfield Elementary School second-grade teacher, demonstrated a Fund-A-Need project at the gala.

The goal is to put Sphero robots, app-controlled orbs, in elementary schools to teach computer coding.

"Our youngest levels in kindergarten through fifth grade can control robots through a draw pad, learning logical thinking skills and perseverance," Long said. "It's a great product that lets our youngest kids have access to coding and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math)."

Sphero goes beyond coding by incorporating robotics and technology with collaborative activities, while nurturing students' imagination, she said.

"It's a product that can grow with the kids as they learn JavaScript programming all the way to high school," Long said.

Lincoln High School senior Teri Seward said she attended the gala because it's a great event for the schools.

Seward said she likes bidding on silent auction items via a smartphone, as opposed to having to physically check back on auction items as in previous years.

Angela James volunteered for a third time at the gala.

Her children are students at High Point Elementary School, Middle School East and Lincoln High School.

"I like to do this because you know where the money is going," James said.

Ann Flaherty said the demonstration of the Fund-A-Need project convinced her of the usefulness of the technology tool for young learners.

Flaherty is a member of a committee that awards grants to teachers through the foundation.

Lincoln Elementary School physical education teacher Kyle Bentley is one of those grant recipients.

"The grant I received was to support a morning exercise group called Gym Rats," he said. "It is a group of students that meets every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning from 7:30 to 7:55 a.m."

He said some of the students in the group were specifically asked to join based on an effort to improve their reading and math scores.

"The group is 100 percent voluntary and any student in grades 3-5 may attend," Bentley said. "The students typically come in and perform a full-body warmup, work on a skill, and then hit a short five- to eight-minute workout or a circuit before heading off to class."

He said the students have done a really nice job of working hard during the workouts.

"The grant from GJEF has enabled me to purchase some really necessary equipment to help enrich the quality of this program," Bentley said. "The types of things the students do aren't your typical physical education programs."

The students use medicine balls, pull-up bars, gymnastic rings, Olympic plates and mobility rubber bands.

"As a CrossFit Level 1 trainer, I bring many elements of CrossFit into the Gym Rats program, and the students love it," Bentley said.

For more about the education foundation, visit