NEWINGTON – Students at John Paterson Elementary were itching for the noon hour to pass Tuesday, eagerly awaiting a daring performance from their school chief.
As the end of the day neared Principal Michael Gaydos pulled up his rainbow tutu, stuck a crown on his head and prepared to dance onstage. To the roaring delight of the school community the curtain drew and he shamelessly began a ballet routine. Fellow male teachers jumped onstage to join him in humble support.
This was a challenge from students, who collected over $1,700 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society over the last several weeks. The Student Council came up with the idea for the fundraiser after learning children their age can die from these potentially-fatal blood cancers.
“We heard about all the kids who have it and it’s not fair that they’re our age and they can’t live a normal life,” Treasurer Ava dos Santos pointed out.
“I feel like we really saved a life,” Secretary Tamaya Barnes added.
Both girls are in the fourth grade. President Olivia Grattage, Vice President Jillian Bouchard and Representative Olivia Caneperi agreed, saying they were proud of themselves and their classmates.
“We set a goal and worked hard to achieve it,” Grattage said in her assembly address. “You showed your altruistic side and those affected by leukemia and lymphoma will have a better life because of it.”
Gaydos pointed out that students were wholly responsible for his silly act.
“The reason I looked so ridiculous today was because of all of you. We could not have accomplished what we accomplished ourselves. You should all be very, very proud of yourselves.”
Council Advisors Andrea Obert-Hahn and Denise MacDonald worked with officers to stir up excitement among the school community and count earnings as they were collected.
“We’re very proud of them,” Obert-Hahn said Tuesday.
The entire student body contributed to donation bins, which represented different challenges their principal might take on. He dodged having a pie thrown in his face, singing a song in front of the entire school and working from the rooftop for a day. Gaydos allegedly wouldn’t have minded the latter option.
“We were going to bring his desk up on the roof,” Obert-Hahn said. “That challenge was his favorite.”
It became pretty clear early on which dare students wanted him to endure, since the box for the tutu dance was teeming with spare change and cash. Seeing this, the council decided to add incentives to increase their profits. Soon Gaydos was wearing a crown, holding a wand and twirling like a ballerina.
It brought lots of laughter and fun to their Tuesday afternoon, but students were reminded that the fundraiser’s true purpose was to unite the school community in achieving a single objective. Officers went on to mention other community service projects school groups organized this year.
The kindergarten class raised money for the Newington branch of the Connecticut Humane Society, and the Helping Hands club sent care packages to American soldiers deployed in Kuwait.
“I knew that I could work on achieving goals by myself,” Grattage told her classmates, “but now I know that we can work together as a group to accomplish anything.”
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.