With the ring of the lunch bell Wednesday, hundreds of students eagerly gathered in line to buy a piece of strawberry shortcake from a class of second-graders at Bullard Talent Elementary in northwest Fresno.
The students knew they were getting not only a yummy dessert, but also the opportunity to contribute to a good cause.
The annual strawberry shortcake sale is part of a fundraising campaign by students in Stacey Williams' second-grade class. Their goal: raise $1,000 by May 1 for the Craycroft Cancer Center at Children's Hospital Central California.
Wednesday's shortcake sales netted $1,045 and skyrocketed them well past their goal. And that's on top of the $635.83 they had already raised.
Not willing to rest on their laurels, the students voted Wednesday to hike their goal to $2,000 and extend the fundraising past May 1.
"I have such amazing students," Williams said.
Each year for the past six years, Williams' second-grade class has taken on the fundraising project to benefit a unit at Children's Hospital. Before this year, Williams' students had raised more than $4,000.
After this year's effort was launched in January, the students announced on a daily basis how much money they had raised and what tasks they performed to earn it.
"I've heard it all," Williams chuckled.
The 7- and 8-year-olds do a variety of chores: vacuuming, washing dishes, garden work, picking up dog poop and even cleaning toilets.
But they don't seem to mind the hard work.
"We're raising money and trying to help the kids stay healthy. It makes me feel good," student Holden Murray said this month as the class tallied the growing total.
The students are getting more than lessons in philanthropy. As the amount of money grows, Williams has each student do the math and tell the class how much money is still needed to reach the goal.
"I hear and see all of the things that the hospital does to raise money," Williams said. "I think to get 30 kids involved, especially when they're doing chores around the house, charging their parents and then bringing in what they earned, I think it's a big donation from kids."
Williams, in particular, is grateful for all the contributions her classes have made to Children's Hospital. She'll never forget the care her newborn daughter received nine years ago when she was born with a congenital heart defect.
"They saved her life," Williams said. "It's our way to give back to the hospital."
Much of the fundraising happens before and after school. Emme Gorden raised $50 one evening selling lemonade. The 7-year-old came up with a different take on the traditional lemonade stand; she canvassed her neighborhood for thirsty customers, then hand-delivered the refreshments.
"I just wanted to help the kids," she said.
Parents are happy to see their children motivated to do good deeds.
Robin Munoz, whose son Quinn is in Williams' class, likes to see how the class enjoys working toward a common goal.
"The kids get so excited to bring the money to school and tell the other kids how they raised it," Munoz said. "I think that's kind of rare these days to see kids do all this hard work to then give it away."
Wednesday's sale was held outdoors next to a tree and near some lunch tables. The children, aided by parents, carefully put strawberries on pieces of cake, topping each with whipped cream and collecting $3 per serving.
The sales are pretty popular among Bullard Talent students, said second-grader Mya Lewis.
"It's delicious. A lot of people buy it," she said. And, "it's a great way to raise money."
Children's Hospital has been grateful for the annual class project, said Molly Eide, development coordinator at the hospital.
"We are so thankful that they think of us when they are doing these fundraisers and for their support throughout the years," she said.
The fundraising campaign will conclude with a visit to the hospital on May 28, when the class will deliver a multimedia cart, a TV and a Wii to the Craycroft Cancer Center.
The reporter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (559) 441-6659.