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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Cottonwood students lend a hand to furry critters

Mar 07, 2023 03:51PM ● By Julie Slama

Cottonwood High student leader Carley Stephens and other students helped raise funds for the Best Friends Animal Society and Humane Society of Utah. (Tara Battista/Cottonwood High)

Cottonwood High student body officers and faculty had a rare opportunity earlier this winter. 

Joining them at school were their pets—there at the kickoff assembly to support Cottonwood’s fundraising assembly for animal rescue organizations in Salt Lake City.

“We had a puppy walk where people brought their puppies and walked them across stage,” said student body officers’ adviser Tara Battista. “We supported Best Friends Animal Society and the Humane Society of Utah.”

Student body communications officer Talmage Winward fostered his cat, Violet.

“She’s tiny and precious, but pretty scared; I didn’t bring her in,” he said. “We had a wall where SBOs had pictures with their animals and put them on social media and our website to introduce our fundraiser, so I did that.”

The student leaders decided to support animal organizations because “a lot of us have little friends as pets and we thought it would be a cool way to help out animals. When students heard about it, and there’s a lot of students with strong connections to their animals, they were excited and jumped on board,” he said.

Throughout the weeks of their fundraiser, students held events and activities at lunchtimes and in the evenings or people could donate through Venmo or Apple Pay. Local businesses also earmarked a portion of their proceeds during spirit nights to support the Cottonwood students’ fundraiser.

“One thing that got a lot of people supporting us was our grilled cheese night. We made hundreds of grilled cheese sandwiches and sold meals to students in the span of two hours. We also sold them as a meal (with chips and a drink) to raise even more money. It’s always a favorite night, a huge hit, because everyone says they needed comfort food,” she said, adding that their pancake breakfast was another big seller.

Other favorites were purchasing a Candy Gram, where students could choose a cookie or candy cane to be delivered with a note to a classmate or teacher; a coin war where students donated loose change; and a fun run, that was supported by several sports teams. It was moved inside because of inclement weather.

“It actually was one of my favorite activities,” said Winward, who participated as part of the soccer team. “It was kind of a spur of the moment thing with the weather, but we mapped out a route that was a 5K. We ran around inside the school, in the hallways, and had members of our community running and several brought their dogs. It was just a really fun time running.”

Battista said the fundraiser has been a Cottonwood tradition.

In the past, Cottonwood High students have supported one another through donating to the school’s food pantry. They’ve also helped the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Christmas Box House and several homeless shelters. This year, they raised about $2,000 for the animal shelters.

“Last year, we collected money for fabric, and students tied about 350 blankets and donated those. That was meaningful because that they got to deliver an item that they could see was directly impacting somebody where with money, there’s sort of this removal of that they don’t physically get to see what happens,” she said. “For us, we have this balance where we encourage donations, but we understand there’s a lot of kids who benefit from the donations themselves. So, everyone can be involved in supporting and participating in activities and service like making the blankets.”

Winward said he got involved in student government because he loves being part of the activities and planning.

“I have a ton of pride for our school through sports and events and it seemed like a win-win for everyone and to me to help people feel the same way. Doing this has been a lot of fun and it’s doing a lot of good,” he said.

Battista said it’s a way students can look beyond the school walls.

“The students really want to give back to a community that supported them in their events and initiatives. By reaching out to different organizations around the state each year, it gives them a chance to give back to people who have also supported them,” she said. “Part of their education is learning that we are in this together, and they get a chance to give back to people who have maybe helped them. It builds this sense of empathy in the kids. When they stop to give back to the community, to help each other, to be a positive effect on somebody else, that really does something to the kids as well.”