Tonawanda News — Tonawanda teachers presented a $13,000 check to the Make-A-Wish Foundation Thursday afternoon, marking the culmination of the district’s most successful year of fundraising.
The schools have raised more than $100,000 for the organization over 12 years of fundraising, helping finance special trips and events for children with life-threatening illnesses.
“We work with many different schools, but Tonawanda raises more funds than any other district,” Make-A-Wish of Western New York Development Manager Mary Hazel said. “You guys are just amazing.”
Last year, the district raised $12,000, and hoped to beat that figure this time around. Susan Heiss, who began the schools’ fundraising efforts, said the entire community helped the district achieve its goal.
“We are a blue-collar, working-class city, and it’s just amazing how everyone pitches in. Everyone is involved — the parents, the teachers, the administrators, the residents. I wish I could thank the whole community, we are so appreciative and so thankful,” Heiss said.
The local chapter of Make-A-Wish grants about 150 wishes every year, and with each wish costing about $7,500, every dollar raised counts.
Heiss was inspired to start giving to the organization after one of her students, who had a severe heart problem, was able to travel to Walt Disney World thanks to Make-A-Wish.
The young girl later lost her battle with the disease, and Heiss wanted to begin fundraising in her honor.
“I know how much her wish meant to her,” Heiss said. “I wanted to do something in her honor, and we started out small. It has grown so much, and has turned into such a valuable lesson about empathy for our students.”
The district holds a long list of events to raise funds for the organization, including a dodgeball tournament, a raffle to be the principal for the day, spirit days and dress-down days for the teachers.