Photos by Rome City Schools

What do you do when you raise over $12,000 for your school?

If your school is East Central Elementary, then you throw a huge shindig in the school gymnasium, give away a ton of fabulous prizes from community partners, and pie Mr. Fit (a colorful character created by gifted teacher, Gary Jones, Sr.) and East Central’s Principal, Kristin Teems.

Every year, faculty and students combine their efforts to raise money for the school’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). During a two month period, students take pledges from their community for meeting goals centered on health and well-being.

“Get Fit EC is all about the idea of having a healthy mind, body and attitude,” said Teems. “When we focus on keeping these three things healthy, we feel like our students can go out and reach their goals. This campaign started as our Fun Run and it has kind of morphed into Get Fit EC, where our students are part of team building activities, physical activities and games that all help them to be mindful of their overall health.”

The actual Get Fit event happened about one month ago, and since then students have been collecting money that will all benefit the PTO.

“Last year we raised about $10,000 and the rumor is we have exceeded that goal this year,” Teems smiled.

The final amount raised was $12,030.18, all of which is going back to the school to fund facilities and programs. This record-breaking amount of extra money that will be used to help students at East Central was cause for a party.

"Get Fit EC is all about the idea of having a healthy mind, body and attitude,” said Teems. “When we focus on keeping these three things healthy, we feel like our students can go out and reach their goals."

Chants of “Mr. Fit, Mr. Fit, Mr. Fit!” rose above the upbeat music as classes that were named using clever alliteration filled the bleachers. It was not long before Mr. Fit made his appearance, running from end to end of the gym while asking the kids to make some noise for Get Fit EC.

This year, “Jillie the Wolf (a.k.a. assistant principal, Mr. Jason Self and Willie the Wolf’s long-lost sister), joined the fold to celebrate the record-breaking fundraiser.

“We use this money to support various educational programs and we try to offset the cost of school activities for the year,” said Bill Whittington, President of East Central’s PTO. “This is a one-time fundraiser for us throughout the year where we ask our parents and community to give to the school. Funds raised will help with our Accelerated Reader Program. This program helps our teachers increase literacy for each individual student. We also help with the mother-son and father-daughter dance we host yearly here at the school, and more. This year, we hope to be able to improve our playground equipment. This is really huge for our PTO, East Central and, most importantly, the students who attend school here.”

Whittington added that the money is a secondary bonus to what the children learn during Get Fit EC. Healthy living, teamwork and how to work towards a goal are invaluable lessons all of the students learn during the few months of the program.

Hollye Smith, an EC parent and PTO volunteer, spearheaded the event this year and she was very pleased with the contributions of the parents and the community.

“We begin working on Get Fit EC in the spring of the preceding year,” she explained. “There are so many moving pieces behind the scenes, including our sponsors. Tracking pledge collections, keeping up with who is in the lead and securing our prizes takes the work of many. We are so grateful for the support we get every year during this event.”

Prizes include T-shirts for classes who meet a threshold of funds raised, limo rides, ice cream, extra recess time and the coveted chance to pie the principal and Mr. Fit, right in the kisser.

“We are so fortunate to have so many community partners who generously give to East Central’s math and reading programs,” said Smith. “This is really a grass-roots effort. We don’t pay an outside consultant to come in and help us organize this fundraiser. This is parent-and-teacher led and 100 percent of our proceeds go back to the school. Not only do our community partners give to the event, some also come to the school and host teambuilding exercises and physical fitness activities.”

“Having a healthy mind, body and attitude is everything to us here at East Central,” said Teems. “My goal for our students is to prepare them to go forward in life and do anything they set out to accomplish. At East Central, we are all about removing obstacles and opening the door to opportunities for our students. It is our job to help in making that road easier, and Get Fit EC is such a wonderful way to let our students be a part of our goal.”