Golden Bear Pride fundraiser still on for Jones PTO in Upper Arlington

NATE ELLIS
nellis@thisweeknews.com
Wooden Golden Bears line the walkway leading to Jones Middle School. About 100 Jones parents and students -- primarily sixth-graders -- help move the wooden bears each year to front lawns of residents. The activity will continue through Wednesday, Sept. 23, as part of the Jones Parent-Teacher Organization's Golden Bear Pride fundraiser.

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has put a damper on fundraising efforts this school year, but an event that raises $20,000 annually for Jones Middle School again is roving across the community.

Last week, packs of wooden Golden Bears began their annual migration across the community, greeting residents on their front lawns each morning before moving on.

The activity will continue through Sept. 23 as part of the Jones Parent-Teacher Organization's Golden Bear Pride fundraiser, which for the past six years has raised on the order of $20,000 each year.

"Each year, our students are excited to see the bears around town, even popping up in their own yards," said Toni Bloomfield, Golden Bear Pride co-chair. "I think it's such a unique way to show school pride.

"To get a visit from the bears, to see them at a football game or around town is so fun," she said. "It really helps create a sense of community among our families, especially when we can't be together or in school during these times."

To get a Golden Bear visit, people make a $50 donation or pledge sponsorships at jonespto.com and follow instructions after clicking on the "Golden Bear Pride" tab.

They can request the packs be placed in their own yards or elsewhere in the community.

The Golden Bears remain in place for 24 hours before being moved to other lawns.

Bloomfield said roughly 100 Jones parents and students -- primarily sixth-graders -- help move the wooden bears each year. The approximately $20,000 the fundraiser generated annually is used for programs and equipment at the school that are not provided by Upper Arlington Schools.

"When it was started seven years ago, Golden Bear Pride was designed to help the PTO get rid of all of the smaller fundraisers we kept having to raise money," Bloomfield said. "We heard from parents that they were tired of all the various smaller events.

"With Golden Bear Pride, we are also able to fundraise from businesses in the community," she said. "We have some very generous sponsors who return each year and support us -- and we couldn't be more grateful for their support."

Bloomfield said the fundraiser supplies everything from new tables for the Jones cafeteria to diversity, equity and inclusion events.

"We supply teachers with grants for classroom needs and help our families in whatever way we can," she said. "This past summer, the Jones PTO was proud to be able to give money to the UA Education Foundation to help them supply lunches over the summer for Upper Arlington students."

In addition to being grateful for the community support, Bloomfield said the Jones PTO is fortunate that the fundraiser hasn't been thwarted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Other traditional fundraising events, such as the annual Upper Arlington Education Foundation's annual Golden Bear Bash, was converted to an online auction, held Sept. 1-7.

Others, including the Upper Arlington High School football team's summer mattress sale and the Barrington Clown Around fundraiser, were canceled altogether.

District leaders also decided this summer to cancel all PTO supply sales because of uncertainly about what the situation would look like in the fall.

Barrington PTO co-president Natalie Boe said the Clown Around event, which was slated for Saturday, Sept. 19, has been held for nearly 40 years. It raises money for supplemental education materials and opportunities for students and families that are not covered in the district's budget.

It's similar to a carnival and has for years invited students and community members to try to dunk teachers in a water tank and compete in obstacle courses, take part in homemade games and crafts and sample food from local vendors.

"On average, Clown Around has had annual proceeds of approximately $30,000 for the past several years," Boe said. "Due to health and safety guidelines in Franklin County, as well as the UA Schools directive, the event has been postponed and is being reevaluated for spring 2021.

"BPTO is carefully evaluating fundraising opportunities and is not immune to the economic downturn of COVID-19. We hope families will continue supporting BPTO through their membership, as well as shopping with local education partners, including Giant Eagle, Kroger and Amazon, which have community-education programs with a portion of sales directed to Barrington."

Boe noted the Barrington PTO also is exploring partnership opportunities with local businesses for "mini fundraisers."

One such event is slated for Tuesday, Sept. 22, with Noodles and Co., 1350 W. Fifth Ave., Columbus; the restaurant will donate 25% of sales proceeds received between 4 and 8 p.m. that day.

Bloomfield said the Golden Bear Pride fundraiser was able to move forward without many changes because the bears are delivered to houses each night by volunteers, often parents and students from the same family.

"There is very little human interaction in the delivery and picking up with bears," she said.

"This year, we will provide our volunteers with disinfecting wipes, gloves, hand sanitizer and instructions on handling the bears in the safest possible way."

Bloomfield said Golden Bear Pride is important to the Jones students and parents but also noted the event this year is taking on special meaning: Not only does it bring volunteers together for a common cause, she said, but it also brings excitement and joy to residents during trying times.

"As a community, we are stronger whenever we work together," Bloomfield said. "I think Golden Bear Pride helps our students feel like they are a part of the Jones community.

"Whether it's helping us paint the bears to get them ready, moving the bears or getting a visit from the bear, Golden Bear Pride is just that -- pride in being a Golden Bear."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

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