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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Kids helping kids with a lot of peanut butter and some ‘jamm’

Aug 02, 2022 10:28AM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Students, staff and faculty came to Butler Elementary in the days before summer break with peanut butter—more than 600 jars, in fact.

“It was enough to represent each student at our school,” Butler Elementary PTA President Katy Mitarai said.

The school’s peanut butter drive was to help fill the Utah Food Bank this summer, to help other youth who need food. The school teamed up with Will Dance for Kids Project, which holds dance “jamms” to bring awareness and benefit the food bank.

“This is the first time we’ve had a peanut butter jamm at a school,” said Will Dance director Penny Broussard, who said they’ve been holding the benefit concerts for 10 years. “This is all about kids helping kids and we do it through dance.”

Broussard, who had a dance studio before she retired and has been involved in dance for 57 years, joined up with the food bank to raise funds and awareness and food for the Utah Food Bank’s kids’ program. Traditionally a big jamm is held annually with professional hip hoppers and dancers from across the state where they will have a showdown of their skills, but this year, she’s also bringing in smaller jamms into the schools.

“It's so important for kids, especially the kids that are so privileged. It's a good life lesson for the kids and it really makes a difference in our community,” she said. “It’s fun in schools because we share with them the excitement of dance as we’re trying to help others in need.”

Utah Food Bank’s website states that one in seven Utah kids are unsure where their next meal is coming from, and donations are needed during the summer months.

During Butler’s peanut butter jamm, not only did the professionals and emcee Josh Perkins from 1520 Art display their skills, but so did numerous students who were randomly selected from the audience and taught a few moves from the dancers. Volunteers, staff and faculty also were invited up to jamm, much to the delight of students.

“It was so fun to get the kids involved. Whenever the kids can become aware of the fact that they can help other kids, then I think that makes a huge difference. They were so excited, and I think they really have fun participating and so to bring the hip hop dancers to them and then let them participate as well was a win-win and the teachers were the icing on the cake,” she said.

Broussard said they focus on peanut butter since it is a staple for the Utah Food Bank’s kids’ program and can be used for more than one meal.

“They can make it themselves and it's protein and for us to collect it makes it simple. We’re used to dance competitions, so it was just a switch to hold benefit concerts,” Broussard said, adding that the past couple years the big jamms have been held in November at Brighton High. “We invite dance studios from across the state and they dance to make a difference in the lives of hungry kids. We've raised over $459,000 for the food bank the past nine years and about 69,000 jars of peanut butter and counting.”

Mitarai knew Broussard and thought this was a good opportunity for Butler students.

“When I was planning out my year, I knew that I wanted to do a lot of service because we live in a community that's so generous, and there's not a lot of opportunities for little kids to get involved in things,” she said. “We tried to think of some things this year that would be fun and engaging for the kids. So, we did The Giving Tree at Christmastime where the kids could pick an ornament that had things families needed who are in the Canyons School District. Then we held a sock hop. We wanted to do something where we could get the kids out with their families because we haven't been able to do that for so long. We asked each family to bring a pair of new socks so we could donate those to The Road Home family shelter in Midvale.”

During The Giving Tree, Butler students donated 62 containers of laundry detergents, 73 bottles of dish soap, 87 family games, 52 gift cards and 33 hygiene kits that were given to families in need through Canyons Education Foundation.

At the 1950’s sock hop, they contributed 1,796 pairs of socks, three pairs of men’s underwear and even a pair of gardening gloves.

Principal Jeff Nalwalker supports his student body getting involved in community service.

“It’s good for kids to have opportunities to serve other people and do things with a charitable heart,” he said.

Mitarai said the community was generous as well with the peanut butter donations.

“I love helping kids and our student body had a fun time as the peanut butter jars came in. They built a huge pyramid in the main hallway of the school with the peanut butter,” she said.

The student council also made posters and put them around the school and wrote out the announcement about the drive.

“The students learned how to be leaders and get others involved; it was something easy to do, but appreciated so much and impacts so many,” she said. “I love the message that the hip hoppers gave: ‘We all come from different backgrounds, but we all can come together to make a difference.’”