Education column: Students raise money with paper chains

By May 6, should you walk down the hallways at Barry Elementary, you will see billowing rainbows of colored paper chains suspended from the ceilings in each of the grade level corridors.

Each year, April 6 to May 6, the entire school pitches in to help raise money for the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) Relay For Life. Each hall, containing one or more grade levels, competes against itself by selling links to build the chains. Every class has their own color and, in their spare time, kids make links out of colored construction paper and sell each link for 25 cents.

Each link sold is added to the chain suspended from the ceiling. It’s a month long race to see which class can build the longest construction paper chain. The winning class gets a movie and popcorn party, and all the halls have rainbows.

Parties are great, but more importantly, these students show a high degree of commitment that seems rare these days. Twenty-five cents doesn’t sound like a lot, but each year during this month-long effort, the kids raise between $1,500 and $2,000.

I recently had the opportunity to visit with Dawn Hanks, fourth-grade teacher, who began the whole thing at Barry about five years ago, inspired by the memory of her grandfather. As with most projects, it began small but developed a momentum of its own as more and more students, teachers, and parents wanted to contribute their efforts.

In addition to the colored paper chains, a couple of years ago Hanks acquired Mini-Relay kits (free of charge from ACS) complete with curriculum, and with which parents have also become involved. The curriculum covers nutrition, physical activity, sun safety, and dangers of tobacco. After the curriculum has been covered, various activities are organized, from winning beads for each round walked to quick change relay races, where kids have to change over-sized clothes — if they don’t collapse in laughter — on top of their own as part of the sun safety lesson.

Most of the activities have some sort of classroom application as well. Hanks shared some of the math lessons they’d covered as students learned important lessons in the real-world applicability of organizing and recording their earnings and data.

The day I went by Barry, I met three students who wanted to share their own stories: Cody, whose little sister has leukemia; Ivana and Lena, whose aunt and grandmother, respectively, have had cancer. Listening to those kids tell about why it was important for them to help out and be part of the solution put things in a whole new perspective.

If you would like to be part of this worthy chain gang, call Hanks, now Chairperson for Relay For Life at 575-760-8937. The link is:

Also — by the way — if you happen to participate at the big Relay For Life event at Ned Houk (May 6-7) the colored paper chains you’ll see are from Barry Elementary.

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the Instructional Technology Coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools and can be reached at