Marmaduke Shows Heart in Helping Wishes Come True

Thursday, March 20, 2014
Marmaduke superintendent Tim Gardner, SRO Shane Martin and elementary principal Audrea King were pied in the face in celebration of the students' raising over $15,000 for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. With the funds collected, Marmaduke students will be able to grant three wishes in the future. (Photo courtesy of Rachel Carner/Paragould Daily Press)

The students, faculty and volunteers of the Marmaduke School District have taken their support of the Make-a-Wish Foundation to the next level, having raised over $16,000 this year for the beloved organization, which provides wonderful opportunities to children with life-threatening illnesses. Through the funds raised during the 2013-2014 school year alone, the district will be able to grant three wishes in the near future.

"Everyone gets involved, but it's the students who make it so successful and special," elementary principal Audrea King said. "They get so excited and you can't help but get swept up along with them."

"Our kids really do have hearts for this," kindergarten teacher and Make-a-Wish coordinator Kendra Street said. "It's just incredible. We had two boys who were saving their money for a trip to Disney World, and they had over $600, and they decided they wanted to give their Disney World money to Make-a-Wish. That was something they come up with entirely on their own."

Street, a 2002 MHS graduate, is a Wish Kid herself, having had a wish granted while a student at Marmaduke.

"Having a wish granted is such a wonderful thing for these kids," Street said. "In so many of the cases, these kids have spent so much time going to doctors and things like that, so it's nice for them to have the opportunity to just be a kid and have a great time."

The entire Marmaduke student body gathered in the gymnasium on Feb. 14 to hear the final tally they collected when funds were turned in to the Have-a-Heart Wish-a-Thon. As the amount was spoken over the radio, the entire gym erupted in celebration.

"Everyone was excited," Street recalled. "You could hear a roar of cheers as the kids celebrated. It was amazing!"

The gathered students enjoyed a special treat. Due to their record-setting efforts, King, superintendent Tim Garner and Student Resource Officer Shane Martin were treated to whipped cream pies in the face. These were not "one-and-done" pie shots, either; the contents were scooped off the tarp and reused as King, Garner and Martin were thoroughly covered with cream by the time the celebration wound to an end.

Marmaduke's efforts have been noticed at the national level, as well. Street, King and others involved with the school's work with Make-a-Wish were interviewed last month by correspondents from CBS' 60 Minutes as part of a feature piece the long-running news program plans to air at a later, as yet unrevealed date.

"Because of how hard our kids work and how much they want to help Make-a-Wish, we were one of only two schools in northeast Arkansas they visited," King said.

Marmaduke students have raised over $75,000 since 2003. With $5,000 considered the cost of granting a wish to visit Disney World, the school has made 15 wishes come true. The school uses a change drive, 5K run, dice run, beauty pageant, dance and half-court shots at home basketball games to raise money for the foundation. This past year alone, the elementary school brought in over $5,000 in change.

"For a small school in a town of 11,000 people, what we've been able to accomplish is just unbelievable," Street said. "I think part of it has to do with the compassion here in our community. As a town that's been hit by tornados twice, people what help from others can do, and they want to return that favor."

Marmaduke students have also seen several wishes granted in person. The students work with Street in organizing and carrying out wish fulfillment skits, surprising the visiting wish kid with the announcement their wish has been granted.

"We've had students come out dressed as Disney characters to greet kids," Street said. "We granted a wish for a girl from Bay where we did a game of HORSE where the Bay player made all their shots against our Marmaduke player and the prize was the girl's wish. The students are so enthusiastic about doing that, and they come up with some really creative things. They love it."

With the level of support Marmaduke has shown, it looks like the students will be hard-pressed to continue to come up with unique ways to surprise these special guests.

"Our kids are already looking forward to raising more money for Make-a-Wish," Street said. "They're very passionate about helping the Make-a-Wish Foundation and the children who are waiting to have their wishes granted."

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