If you’ve seen shirts touting the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation, you’ve likely seen a piece of a $100,000 puzzle.
Foundation Executive Director Traci Skalberg said the organization’s annual staff giving campaign, just completing its 18th year, had relatively small beginnings, but big hopes.
“You don’t start by raising that much money,” Skalberg said. “The one-hundred thousand mark has been nebulous for us.”
The 2021 campaign — dubbed “Extraordinary Times. Extraordinary Resilience. Extraordinary Opportunities.” — sent fundraising efforts past the foundation’s magic number to the tune of $102,714.
The foundation ordered 724 of the aforementioned shirts as one of the prizes for hitting fundraising goals. Throughout the campaign, other prizes were available during the March 23–April 16 giving period.
Co-chairs led each building’s staff. Skalberg said ultimately the work was a team effort.
“It’s kind of grassroots in that way,” she said.
Winning teams hailed from the Success Academy and Walnut Middle School, each hitting a 127% giving percentage. Sam Foltz’s number while playing football for the Nebraska Cornhuskers was 27.
“It was just serendipity,” Skalberg said.
A Grand Island Public Schools alum, Foltz was the punter for the Huskers from 2012 until he was killed in a car accident in July 2016. Jill Foltz, his mother and a retired Grand Island Senior High school nurse, approached the school district about contributing to this year’s campaign effort. The Foltz Dream Big Challenge Gift matched all new and increased gifts. The Foltz match ended up cashing in at $5,027.
Skalberg said the Dream Big match, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, gave this year’s staff campaign even more meaning.
“I think the grit that embodied Sam’s legacy is the strength that helped us get through,” Skalberg said.
Fundraising for the 2021 campaign didn’t necessarily come from staff alone; participants were also welcome to pursue other avenues.
“We always tell our team leaders if you reach out into the community and get more gifts, that’s not cheating — it’s investing in our students,” she said.
The Grand Island Public Schools Foundation’s giving is unrestricted. Funds go to where the district needs them most, Skalberg said.
“It’s a really important piece of how Grand Island Public Schools functions,” she said.
Funded endeavors include scholarships and special projects not otherwise funded. Among projects funded by the foundation are the Academic Aristocrat Scholarship program, Teacher of the Year and the Classroom Mini-Grant program. The Oregon Trail experience for Newell Elementary School fourth-graders recently was awarded a grant.