Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools students will benefit from $140,306 donated to the district this year, thanks to the success of the Gahanna-Jefferson Education Foundation's Gala and donations from other partners.

Tricia Twigg, the district's co-community-relations and outreach coordinator, said the 2019 gala was one of the foundation's most successful events, second only to that of 2016.

On the first day of school, set Wednesday, Aug. 14, for elementary, middle school and high school freshmen students, each of the 700 kindergartners will receive a book called "The Kissing Hand" by Audrey Penn, and kindergartners will receive a Gahanna Class of 2032 T-shirt to welcome them.

The gifts, with $6,000 allocated from the foundation, are a result of the gala.

This past year, Twigg said, proceeds totaled $140,306 from the Feb. 23 Gahanna Gala held at L Brands, 3 Limited Parkway in Columbus.

"Some of this money has yet to be awarded," she said. "We have our mini-grant cycle coming up this fall."

In 2016, the gala's Fund-A-Need project was providing 3D printers for all the middle schools and the high school, Twigg said.

That year, Dynalab offered a $20,000 matching donation, for a total of $40,000 for Fund-A-Need.

Gala proceeds that went to the buildings that year totaled $145,922.

Through the gala, Twigg said, the foundation is able to provide unique hands-on experiences for students and provide classroom tools that support learning.

"We like to say that we help with the cool stuff," she said.

Items that have been supported by the Gahanna Gala include:

* STEM education resources -- The foundation is paying for 150 teachers ($5,250) to become special members of the Civil Air Patrol, an aerospace education membership.

Through this membership, teachers have access to STEM kits in astronomy, robotics, flight simulation, coding, engineering, rocketry, quadcopters and more.

"We are thrilled that teachers in all 11 buildings will have access to these resources provided by the auxiliary of the U.S Air Force," Twigg said.

* Grants -- $78,500 teacher grants and program initiatives throughout the district; $21,600 Fund-A-Need raised with each middle school receiving $5,400 to design maker spaces in their media centers, and the Districtwide Middle School Robotics Competition Team will receive $5,400 to pay for equipment for robots; $2,000 to the Harvey Mast Care for Kids program, to support students with personal needs; $4,500 to district PTA/PTOs for their help in raffle ticket sales; and $1,500 to STEM materials for the media centers in all elementary schools.

Projects funded by individuals and corporate donation include:

* Literacy support -- This past June, Twigg said, the foundation partnered with NetJets to provide over 880 high-interest books, valued about $7,500, for K-12 students in the summer school program.

Striving readers received books that they took home, returned and swapped out for new titles.

"We are grateful to have this opportunity because of the generosity of NetJets," Twigg said.

* Art and fabrication lab -- A private donor has funded $2,500 in clay extruding equipment and document cameras for the high school art department.

In addition, a private donor gave $10,000 to purchase a Wazer Desktop Waterjet station for the high school FabLab. This technology will add the capacity to cut almost any material with digital precision using high-pressure water, Twigg said.

Michael Kunselman, engineering teacher and Lincoln FabLab adviser, said he's still floored by the donor's generosity.

"The addition of a tool like this will give Gahanna Lincoln students exposure to yet another advanced method of manufacturing," he said. "My goal with our program is to expose students to what is really out there in industry. This addition is one step closer to that goal."

Kunselman said a donation of this type will affect thousands of students.

"We plan to implement this tool in portions of all four of the engineering pathway classes," he said. "The Wazer desktop waterjet will allow students to take the parts they design in CAD (computer-aided design) and cut them from steel, aluminum, titanium and carbon fiber, to name a few. The huge benefit here is that this machine can literally cut anything."

Kunselman said the Wazer is the first of its kind to bring this technology to a hobby and educational level.

"This is one more tool in our expanding quiver, and will make many more impacts and experiences for the students of Gahanna Lincoln," he said.

Sharon Tomko, co-community relations and outreach coordinator, said she's grateful for continued support from district families and the business community.

She said the foundation is looking forward to another successful gala as it moves to a new location -- COSI, 333 W. Broad St., Columbus -- on Feb. 29.