It’s been said that a smile is the curve that sets everything straight.
So could some Smile Bags assembled by local Girl Scouts do something like that?
You just never know.
One thing is certain: a Fremont troop and their leaders hope to encourage foster kids with some special gift-filled bags.
Kristi Sendgraff and Dawn Arett are co-leaders of Bergan Girl Scout Troop 40079.
The troop is comprised of 15 girls in fifth and sixth grades, who’ve raised $1,000 for their gift bag project.
Thus far, the group has filled 80 nylon, drawstring bags with gifts — and hopes to fill another 100.
“It brings tears to my eyes,” Sendgraff said.
The effort began after the girls started talking about a community service project earlier this year.
“My daughter (Olivia) was a foster child,” noted Sendgraff, who with her husband, Paul, adopted the girl a couple years ago.
And one idea that came up during the troop’s meeting involved helping children, who might not be able to bring anything with them when they’re taken out of their homes and put into foster care.
The scouts considered putting together special bags that would help foster children — maybe even making them smile.
In September, Sendgraff contacted the Department of Health and Human Services with that idea.
“They were thrilled,” she said.
The girls talked about how they’d pay for the Smile Bags. They decided to use some of the money from their cookie sales and from a Girl Scout garage sale. They had another fundraiser at St. Patrick’s Church in Fremont.
Sendgraff asked the girls to decide what they’d put into the bags.
Since children in foster care range in age from 0-19, the girls decided to have two sets of bags.
Bags for children up to age 11 include: a stuffed animal, coloring book, crayons, Playdoh, a small card game like Go Fish, Bible story book and a stress ball with an emoji (a little digital image or icon).
The bags for older kids include: a more adult-like coloring book, colored pencils, stuffed animal, pocket Bible, regular playing cards and a stress ball.
At the troop’s next meeting, the girls will discuss more fundraising ideas. The group hopes to have enough bags not only for the Department of Health and Human Services, but also for The Bridge, which helps domestic abuse survivors.
Sendgraff noted that the troop’s younger girls, who are Juniors, can earn a Bronze Award, while older girls, who are Cadets, can earn a Silver Award.
Part of earning those awards involves getting in the community and seeing who else could benefit from the Smile Bag project and also going out with an adult and talking to friends and family about their efforts and getting donations.
“I challenged the girls to try to get five people they know who’d donate a bag,” Sendgraff said.
Anyone who’d like to donate funds to purchase a bag for a child may send donations to: Troop 40079, 1169 County Road X, Fremont, NE 68025.
Theater students at Fremont High are set to have a busy week as they take to the stage to present their fall play, “Arsenic and Old Lace”, before heading out on Halloween night to collect food as part of the national Trick or Treat So Kids Can Eat program.
Fremont High will present its fall play “Arsenic and Old Lace” on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. inside the recently renovated Nell McPherson Theater.
“Arsenic and Old Lace” is a farcical comedy that centers around Mortimer Brewster and his attempts to deal with various members of his maniacal, and even murderous, family members.
In the play, originally written by Joseph Kesselring in 1939, Mortimer has recently become engaged and goes to visit his sweet spinster aunts to announce the engagement.
While visiting, Mortimer learns that his dear old aunts have been poisoning lonely old men for years. When his brother Jonathan returns on the night the aunts are planning to bury their newest victim, Mortimer must rally to help his aunts and protect his fiancé.
“It’s just a really fun, funny play,” Drama Instructor Kate Jorgensen said. “There are a lot of interesting characters.”
Along with the two aunts who will be played by Merrill Mitchell and Sarah Qualsett, and Mortimer who will be played by Seth Cunningham, there are also Mortimer’s strange brothers.
“One believes he is Teddy Roosevelt and the aunts tell him that the cellar is the Panama Canal so then he will dig locks in the canal and that is where they bury the gentlemen,” Jorgensen said. “He has another brother who is a bit of a psychopath and a murderer who has had plastic surgery so he is unrecognizable and he comes in and tries to kill Mortimer.”
The two brothers in the play, Teddy and Jonathan, will be played by a pair of brothers in real life.
“The two other brothers are actual real life brothers, Kameron and Noah Sorensen,” Jorgensen said. “So they get to be brothers both on and off the stage.”
According to Jorgensen, several factors pushed back the start of rehearsals and forced the students into overdrive.
“The auditorium renovations took longer than anticipated and I was out with back surgery for the first six weeks of school so we have only been rehearsing for four weeks and only had the stage for two weeks,” she said. “We put this together in a short amount of time and it’s still a high quality product. I’m very proud of them and what they have been able to accomplish.”
The cost of admission for “Arsenic and Old Lace” is $7, or $5 with a nonperishable food item which will lead into the Fremont International Thespian Society troupe’s Trick or Treat So Kids Can Eat project on Halloween night.
“This is the small part of it to kind of get us rolling, the big part is actually on Halloween,” Jorgensen said.
On Halloween night, students and members of the Thespian Society will be going door-to-door, but instead of asking for candy, they will be collecting nonperishable food items that will be donated to Low Income Ministries.
“What we do is everyone gets together, we dress up and wear little badges that say we are part of the International Thespian Society Trick or Treat So Kids Can Eat event,” Jorgensen said. “We split up a map of Fremont and send them off in groups and I wait in the scene shop for kids to come back with boxes full of food and then they head out again until lights start turning off.”
According to Jorgensen, last year the group collected 1,300 pounds of food for Low Income Ministry and the service project continues to be one of the students’ favorite activities.
“I find it so unique and so refreshing, that this is a major service project and the kids just absolutely love doing it,” she said. “I think that speaks volumes about the kind of kids we have in our community, that one of their favorite things to do every year is to help give back.”
Those interested in donating nonperishable food items to the drive can drop off food items in the front office of Fremont High School or email Jorgensen at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a pickup time on Halloween night.
“This is the time of year when the need starts to really go up, because you have holidays starting to come up and it is getting colder,” Jorgensen said. “This is just a wonderful project and the kids thoroughly enjoy it, it is one of the highlights of the year for them.”
While certainly not everybody looks back fondly on their time spent in school, many look back and have positive memories associated with some of the fun activities provided to them through their educational experience.
Many elementary schools, middle schools and high schools host special events throughout the course of the school year to give its faculty, students and families the chance to have a little fun outside of the classroom setting.
On Saturday, Cedar Bluffs Public Schools is hosting its annual Boo Bash event which will provide area residents a chance to partake in a spooky good time.
From 3-6 p.m., people are invited to attend the free Halloween-themed carnival being held inside of the Cedar Bluffs Fire Hall.
In addition, a small haunted house is being held inside of the Cedar Bluffs Auditorium, guidance counselor Janelle Stansberry said during a Tuesday interview with the Tribune.
The Boo Bash, intended for children pre-school through fifth-grade, is put on by approximately 40 eighth-grade through 12th-grade students involved with the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) program.
“It’s a group that promotes leadership activities, community service and developing important communication skills,” Stansberry said.
Typically, anywhere from 200-300 attend Boo Bash, she said. Those in attendance will have the opportunity to enjoy an assortment of school carnival activities, which include: a variety of food opportunities, a bounce house, bowling game, a duck pond game and a lollipop tree, among others.
Boo Bash is always a great time for all in attendance, Stansberry said.
“The kids always have a blast, and I think the parents appreciate that we have it indoors so they don’t have to deal with the weather factor during this time of year,” she said. “And every year we try to do a few different things so that keeps it fun and exciting.”
The students also enjoy seeing their hard work pay off in a fun way.
“Fall break starts Friday, and a lot of students spend their day off donating their time to do something good and to give back to the community,” she said.