Pictured are Rogers Elementary’s socks decorating entries for this year. In just the month of September, Gardner raised $4,704.64, Rogers raised $5,511.26, SPPCS raised $3,870.60, and Waterloo Junior High raised $400 on an ice cream cone.
This year Rogers Elementary, Gardner Elementary and Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic School has raised the most money they’ve ever had through the Kellsie’s Hope Foundation’s Sock it to Childhood Cancer campaign.
Waterloo Junior High School also contributed to this total by raising $400 with an ice cream cone.
“Between the four schools that are doing it, we’ve raised over $14,000 and most of that is changing. That’s great,” said Tricia McGhee, who leads the local campaign.
Students from the four Waterloo schools filled socks with change, with all change going to the Kellsie’s Hope Foundation, which donates money to support childhood cancer research, takes children with cancer on fun trips and outings, an annual nursing grant provided and more.
“We, as volunteers, get thousands of white socks and we dye them yellow because yellow is the color of childhood cancer, and then we deliver them to the schools,” McGhee explained. “(Teachers) hand out socks to every classroom and the kids collect as much change as possible.”
But what would a fundraiser be without a little competition? At each school, classes with the most change win a pizza party. This year’s winners are Gardner’s Marci Cooper class ($491.93), Rogers’ Kristin McCarthy class ($573.25) and SPPCS’s Anna Seipp class ($531.48).
The base classes also entered a sock decorating competition, with designs ranging from snakes to pineapples to even Big Bird. The winners received goodie bags.
In general, the total of each school increases year after year. Since all four schools, including WJHS’s Ice Cream Social, began raising money for Kellsie’s Hope through the campaign six years ago, they have raised $52,921.85.
“We are a small community helping in a big way,” exclaimed McGhee, adding, “Every cent really counts!”
She’s not sure the kids really understand what a big impact they’re making.
“It leaves me speechless, it really does,” McGhee said. “It’s kids helping kids and I don’t know if they realize what they’re doing when they’re collecting change and what a blessing they are to kids battling cancer and their families. It brings tears to my eyes.”
The foundation helps children with cancer in three ways, McGhee explains. It all started with the foundation’s namesake, Kellsie Marchbanks, an extraordinary young woman who battled cancer three times before losing her last battle in 2011.
“Kellsie actually started this foundation from her hospital bed because when she was stuck in the hospital on vacation with all the other kids, she made little gifts herself and went (to deliver them) in her wheelchair,” McGhee said.
After Kellsie’s death, her parents organized the foundation and perpetuated her tradition of spreading revelry.
“They do so much in the community, even children’s hospitals,” McGhee said. “They take little presents there on vacation and we’re getting ready to do Trees of Hope; they make tiny trees that are decorated and take them to the hospitals and the tiny trees will be like little stuffed animals and gift cards for the kids.”
McGhee also highlighted the foundation’s fundraisers for childhood cancer research, as well as their dedication to wishing gifts and travel.
In 2018, Kellsie’s Hope took Elsa Wiemerslage, Waterloo’s beloved cancer fighter, to Disney World for her eighth birthday. Adrienne Weimerslage, Elsa’s mother, said this was Elsa’s favorite Disney trip.
For McGhee’s family, Kellsie’s Hope holds a special place in their hearts for other reasons too. McGhee went to school with Kellsie’s parents, and her cousin was battling (and overcoming) childhood cancer at the same time that Kellsie did.
“That’s why it’s close to our hearts,” McGhee said. “When Kellsie died, we all kind of got involved to do what we can because it’s a 100 percent volunteer foundation.”
For McGhee’s daughter Jennifer McBride, this meant bringing the Sock it to Childhood Cancer competition to Waterloo in 2015.
“Gardner was the first school to do it, because she was a teacher at Gardner … they actually do schools all over the United States,” McGhee said.
In 2016, all four Waterloo schools participated. McBride eventually moved to Florida, where she introduced Sock it to Childhood Cancer at her new school. It was then that McGhee took over at Waterloo.
She said the campaign is a complete community effort that goes beyond children’s coin collecting.
“They’re great. Everyone involved in this, from the teachers who helped distribute the socks to the office workers who (help) pick up the socks. Papa John’s gives us a really good deal on the pizza parties and Scott Credit Union has been phenomenal,” she said, explaining that SCU counts thousands of dollars in change at a time to the foundation.
For more information about Kellsie’s Hope, visit kellsieshopefoundation.com.