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Students stun themselves with how much money they raised

December 17, 2017

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Grades for the fall semester aren’t official yet, but success in aiding a local charity could make Chapin High School students in student government classes eligible for A+s.

The students celebrated raising $111,200 to help build a proposed sports complex for children with mental and physical disabilities.

Fundraising for charities is a required part of the curriculum for the classes, but the outcome this time far exceeded the expectation of teacher Billie Williams.

“We’ve never done it on this scale,” she said of the challenge she posed to 55 students in ninth through 12th grades. “I thought if we got to $20,000, it’d be awesome.”

The money raised goes to a group of parents developing a plan for a sports and activities center for youngsters with disabilities such as autism and epilepsy, a project tentatively estimated to cost up to $1 million. No site has been chosen yet.

Contributions came from a series of fundraisers this fall. Money flowed in from selling T-shirts promoting the project as well as soliciting contributions from local businesses and individuals in the community at football games and other events, Williams said.

That effort mushroomed beyond Chapin High as students, staff and parents at five other schools — Chapin Middle, Chapin Intermediate, Chapin Elementary, Lake Murray Elementary and Ballentine Elementary — pitched in, officials said.

“We need more places for them to go and play,” said Jenny Bowers, a leader of the new nonprofit organized to promote the project. The group is known as Screaming Eagles Special Needs Athletics after the high school mascot.

Shouts of glee are common when such children gather for baseball, soccer and other sports, she said. “It’s very loud but the right kind of loud, the sound of excitement, the sound of joy,” Bowers said.

The project envisioned is larger than a similar sports complex near Hamilton-Owens Airport in Columbia that opened last summer.

An outdoor sports field there, a longtime dream of some parents, cost more than $300,000, city parks and recreation director Randy Davis said.

Bowers’ group hopes to build a center that can be used year-round not only for children but adults, featuring indoor facilities as well as outdoor fields.

Williams’ interest initially was piqued when some of her students told of their experience as volunteers helping the children. She has no relatives with such disabilities, but said she is touched by how many of them tackle classroom challenges.

“Once Jenny and I got together and decided to make this a go,” Williams said, “it became the perfect storm.”

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