A small fourth-grader wearing a sweet smile sits at a Van Buren Elementary lunch table, a bulletin board covered in blue paper droplets behind her.
That smile gets bigger when she is told she is the fundraising queen.
Since February, Clare Endris has raised more than $1,000 for the Water Project — a nonprofit that provides clean, reliable water to communities in sub-Saharan Africa that do not have proper sanitation.
A Facebook fundraising campaign featured Clare holding two glasses of water — one cloudy and the other clear.
Clare does not have a Facebook account, so she relied on the help of a family friend to post the photos for her.
It worked. She ended up raising $1,135.14.
“All we do is turn on a faucet, and we have clean water. Kids in Africa, especially girls around my age, get to spend, like, five hours just to get like a cup or a whole gallon jug that’s not even clean. They do all of the hard work for nothing, and we do nothing for clean water,” Clare said.
Clare’s mother, Anne, was also a fundraiser. She passed away a year ago.
“This is a difficult time in her life since it’s been a year since her mom has passed, but she has taken what her mom has taught her, and she has really expanded on that,” Principal Christy Wrightsman said.
This isn’t Clare’s first time raising money for a charitable cause at school. Last year, she and her cousin made and sold bracelets to raise money for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation — last year’s One Book, One School charity.
“I think it’s amazing because she has consistently, over the course of the last two years, been an integral part in helping support and fund-raise for our charities,” Wrightsman said.
This year, students read “Clean Water for Elirose,” a book that encourages children to make a difference in countries that do not have access to clean water, like Haiti or Africa.
Art teacher Olivia Pankratz picked this year’s books and contacted the Water Project to set up the collaboration, Wrightsman said.
Second-, third- and fourth-graders also read “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” which is about the use of water for energy, Wrightsman said.
Students who donated at least $1 could put their name on a water droplet on a bulletin board in the lunchroom. Students were challenged to fill empty water jugs with pennies; $1,021.13 was raised from those efforts.
Third- and the fourth-graders decorated rain barrels in art class, which were auctioned at the school’s end-of-the-year party May 6 for $260, Wrightsman said. Modern Woodmen Financial’s matching grant program kicked in $500.
Wrightsman is proud of Clare and all students who raised a total of $3,016.27 for the Water Project. The goal had been $1,000.
“Our kids really love to do this. This started three years ago with a group of girls who wanted to fund-raise for certain charities, and it’s kind of sparked this enthusiasm for continuing this each year,” Wrightsman said.
“Our kids really feel great about themselves, and they are givers.”